The two newest additions to Toronto’s Port Lands Bridges are now open to the public, signifying a major step in the redevelopment of 500 acres of once underutilized land. Designed as modern, elegant, and eye-catching structures, the opening of the Cherry Street North and Commissioners Street Bridges for vehicle, pedestrian, and cyclist traffic ushers visitors into and around the future site of Villiers Island in style.

Waterfront Toronto’s Port Lands Flood Protection Enabling Infrastructure (PLFPEI) project called for innovative and aesthetically stunning bridges to be placed over current and future waterways in the area. The Port Lands Bridges, which are central to the $1.3B revitalization and regeneration effort, were designed by Entuitive, schlaich bergermann partner (sbp), and Grimshaw Architects.

The Port Lands Flood Protection and Enabling Infrastructure project is No. 55 on ReNew Canada’s 2024 Top100 Projects report.

“We’re pleased to celebrate the opening of Cherry Street North and Commissioners Street Bridges, and to reflect on our rewarding and fruitful collaboration with sbp and Grimshaw, as well as our construction partners at Ellis Don,” said Michael Meschino, principal, Entuitive. “Waterfront Toronto is one step closer to completing one of the province’s most exciting projects, and the creation of crucial infrastructure, a place to live, work and play, will be a truly remarkable transformation.”

The joint design effort led by Entuitive was also bolstered with direction from Waterfront Toronto and construction manager EllisDon, who led the construction process from fabrication to erection.

“We are honored to be a part of the physical transformation of the Toronto waterfront into a vibrant, active, and connected community,” said Juan Porral, Partner, Grimshaw. “The Port Lands Bridges enable connectivity and ease of mobility, creating memorable gateways for pedestrians, cyclists, future streetcars, and vehicles onto and through the new Villiers Island.”

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The bridges were designed as an aesthetically unified family of four and showcase innovative fabrication techniques alongside state-of-the-art engineering. The goal of the design was to create elegant and efficient structures that will function as both crossing points and compelling destinations for the public. The single-span Cherry Street North Road and LRT Bridges and the four-span Commissioners Street Bridge join the previously opened Cherry Street South Bridge. With three spans, the Cherry Street South Bridge crosses the new mouth of the Don River on the west side of Villiers Island and was opened in October 2022.

“The Port Lands Bridges are a prime example of how creative teams of architects, engineers, contractors, and owners can come together and design beautiful bridges,” said Michael Stein, Managing Director, sbp. “We are thrilled to contribute to the evolution of Villiers Island with bridges that serve the community both as functional infrastructure and as engaging landmarks that improve the quality of their built environment.”

Throughout the project, Entuitive, sbp, and Grimshaw worked to ensure the bridges reached the high aesthetic requirements to satisfy the public realm and create new legacy structures for the city of Toronto. The resulting family of Port Lands Bridges has been widely recognized with engineering and steel construction design awards in North America and Europe, including the Institution of Structural Engineers, the National Council of Structural Engineers Associations, the Structural Engineers Association of NY, and the Association of Consulting Engineers Companies for Ontario.

“From concept to construction there have been many challenges, which brought lots of opportunity for innovation and collaboration,” said Jonathan Werner, senior associate, Entuitive. “Seeing the Port Lands Bridges open to the public for them to use and enjoy makes it all worthwhile.”

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The PLFPEI project called for bridges that would reference the rich history of Toronto’s waterfront while also supporting a livable and walkable future for the new neighborhood. The design team arrived at a hybrid shell-arch bridge structure—essentially curved tied arches with a planar deck connected by hangers. This self-anchoring curved-tied arch maximizes the material efficiency and reduces cost. Additionally, tied arches only create vertical reaction forces which reduce the size and complexity of the foundations. This was a key design consideration since the soil in the industrial area is contaminated and of poor quality and supporting foundations and piers were also limited by the site’s flood protection plan.

Since arriving in Toronto in 2022, the Port Lands Bridges have won international engineering and design awards, and the signature bridges were made possible by the following partners:

  • Project Owner: Waterfront Toronto
  • Architect Firm: Grimshaw Architects
  • Preliminary Structural Design: schlaich bergermann partner (sbp)
  • Structural Engineer: Entuitive
  • General Contractor: EllisDon
  • Fabricator: Cherubini Bridges & Structures
  • Detailer: Tenca Steel Detailing Inc.
  • Erector: ES Fox Ltd.
  • Erection Engineer: Harbourside Engineering Consultants
  • Geotechnical Engineer: Thurber Engineering Ltd.
  • Civil Engineer: Planmac Engineering Inc.
  • Electrical & Lighting: Mulvaney & Banani Lighting Inc.

Featured image: Cherry St. South Bridge with the newly opened Cherry St. North Bridge and roadway in the distance. (Misha Vickar/Entuitive)

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