Taking down the Gardiner Expressway eastbound ramp in Toronto was an enormous feat for Priestly Demolition.

The company had never done a bridge demolition to that scale and in a timeline of just five weekends.

“There was extensive planning that went on for around four months including logistics as well as engineering,” said Brian Priestly, vice-president of operations at King, Ont.-based Priestly Demolition Inc. “It was a massive operation.”

A new video featuring drone footage, a time lapse and project highlights was released on Dec. 26. It features a behind the scenes look at the project and the people behind it.

“We typically document most or all of the bridge demolitions that we do,” said Priestly. “It’s a good point of reference if there are any disputes or people have questions around timelines or opening the highway.”

The demolition began on Labour Day weekend in September. The first step was to remove the hydro wires. Lake Shore Boulevard below the bridge needed to be closed to traffic in order for the work to take place.

“The Gardiner Expressway is directly above Lake Shore,” said Priestly. “We closed the road to regular City of Toronto traffic and then reopened it so everyone could commute Monday morning back to work.”

Most weekends, crews began work at 10 p.m. on Friday and worked throughout the weekend until the road reopened at 6 a.m. on Monday morning.


The demolition work on Toronto’s eastbound Gardiner Expressway ramp included breaking the bridge deck, removal of the steel girders that held up the highway and breaking the giant concrete piers and pier caps. Crews from Priestly Demolition worked continuously over five weekends to get the work done.

“The work went from closure to the opening to traffic and it was continuous,” said Priestly. “We had two 12-hour shifts going all the time.

“To bring that many people in on the weekend and still try and maintain business with all of our other customers, that was one of the biggest challenges.”

The first weekend involved breaking the bridge deck.

“The bridge deck breaking required lots of protection to be put on the road to ensure that there was no additional road damage,” Priestly said.

The scope of work also included steel removal of the girders that held up the Gardiner Expressway and breaking the giant concrete piers and pier caps.

“We had to put protection in place in terms of sand as well as the excavators had the shields so nothing fell into the waterway or damaged the guardrail that had to be in position to reopen traffic on the Monday morning,” explained Priestly.

For the demolition, the team worked with excavators from up top and used traditional hoisting and rigging methods for the steel girder removal.

“One of the highlights was equipping a couple of our largest excavators, our 100-tonne excavators, with hydraulic breakers,” said Priestly, adding the breakers are like large hammers. “It’s the fastest we’ve ever broken concrete.”

Priestly said innovative methods were used to protect the surroundings during demolition.

“We mounted shields on excavators so it made them quite mobile and agile, and we could progress through the demolition quickly because we were able to move the protection by just moving an excavator versus installing all kinds of protection and having to remove it at the end of the weekend,” he noted.

The demolition work is now complete and all the material is almost all cleaned up.

“Our crushing crew is still there crushing concrete,” Priestly said. “We were going to remove the concrete from site but they were able to recycle the material and reuse it. That was a real advantage to everybody to keep the product as a usable product…The intent is to use it on the same project.”

Although there were some challenges, they were dealt with and the team was able to complete the work on time.

“There are always challenges and surprises in demolition, but they were dealt with swiftly by the team,” Priestly said. “It was a great experience for Priestly. We planned the work and then we worked the plan and as a team we were able to execute the work seamlessly.”

To view the video, visit The Gardiner ExpressWay Eastbound Ramp Demolition – YouTube.

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