By Kevin Werner, News Staff
If you thought you’ve seen traffic tie-ups in Hamilton before, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Beginning this year, the provincial transportation ministry will be working on the Burlington Skyway that will mean lane closures potentially creating “traffic chaos” to the surrounding community roads.
Ministry officials told councillors at the March 17 public works meeting that starting this spring, MTO staff are planning to close Toronto-bound lanes on the skyway to accommodate working platforms on the span. A total of about 18 weekend closures are proposed over the next three years. Those weekend closures could occur between 11 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Then there are the full lane closures proposed on the QEW that will happen for about four hours, said officials. Traffic will be detoured on Eastport Drive.
And when the wind reaches 70 km/hr, two lanes on the skyway will be closed for safety reasons, they said. If the wind reaches 85 km/hr, the entire skyway will be closed, again for safety reasons.
“This has the potential to create traffic chaos,” said Ward 5 councillor Chad Collins, who represents the area that will be most impacted.
Ministry officials say about 150,000 total vehicles use the Burlington Skyway per day, or up to 80,000 vehicles one way per day.
Collins is worried that even though Eastport Drive is identified as the detour route, drivers will use Beach Boulevard to avoid the traffic back ups that are sure to happen.
Martin Michalek, area manager for Hamilton and Niagara, said signs will be installed to encourage drivers to use the Red Hill Parkway, and theLincoln Alexander Parkwayto avoid the skyway.
“We are preparing for the worse,” said Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla.
The work on the skyway includes coating the structure, including the main span and girders, which is to take from 2014 to 2016. Phase three of the project from 2017 to 2019 is scheduled to replace 16 modular expansion joints.
Phase one has been completed, and that project involved coating the approach truss spans to prevent corrosion, and replace three modular type expansion joints.
The work is expected to provide at least 25 years of further protection for the bridge. The tendering opening for the project is scheduled for this week.
Meanwhile, the ministry is also planning to rehabilitate the QEW from Centennial Parkway to Fruitland Road starting this spring. The work also includes improving the road surface, the ramps at Centennial Parkway and Fruitland Road, remediating the roadside safety features including the left and right shoulder rumble strips, and installation of traffic counters and detectors on the roadway.
Michalek said the QEW will be closed during evenings only from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. weekdays and 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. on weekends. There will be no construction taking place on the Toronto-bound lanes between 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. during the weekend and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on the weekends. For Niagara-bound lanes, there will be no work occurring between 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the week, and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on the weekend.
The MTO is also planning to resurface Highway 403 from Old Guelph Road to east of the Lincoln Alexander Parkway, plus improving the wall of the Niagara Escarpment to provide improved safety measures due to the falling rocks.
Work is scheduled to begin in April or May, and is expected to be completed later in the fall. Lane closures are expected to take place, but only during low volumes.