by Stefan Archuticz
Your friendly neighbourhood journalist covering local news, business reviews and opinions!
Apparently, the plan to twin the Garden City Skyway is still in the works! This week, Karena Walter, from the St. Catharines Standard, reported that the Ministry of Transportation says it’s still planning on twinning the Garden City Skyway. By 2025! I personally don’t believe this timeline because it’s such a massive project.
First, some background. The Garden City Skyway is the 2-kilometer section of the QEW Niagara that traverses the Welland Canal, between the Niagara St and Glendale Ave exits. It was built in 1963 and is almost 40 meters at its highest point above the Welland Canal.
The plan to twin the skyway would involve building a second bridge on the north side of the existing bridge. The new bridge would be for Toronto-bound traffic, while the existing one would handle Fort Erie bound vehicles. The project will accomplish several objectives: allow rehabilitation work to happen on the existing bridge without impacting traffic flow, increase the number of lanes for high-occupancy vehicles and restore the truck-climbing lanes.
There’s no doubt the twinning of the skyway would be a boon for the local economy in Niagara. As a local resident who frequently uses the skyway, it’s a bummer whenever traffic is backed up. Mind you, this doesn’t happen very often. Also, if you’re stuck in traffic on one side of the bridge, it’s not like you’d be able to just drive over to the other side. You’d still be stuck exactly where you are like it is today. I suppose some signalling well before the skyway would be constructed to block off the disabled section of the highway and funnel new traffic into the working section. Overall, the twinning would definitely result in a traffic flow improvement.
The primary driver of the twinning plan is structural and safety needs. The existing bridge needs to be rehabilitated because it's nearly 60 years old. A significant disruption of traffic would be necessary to complete the rehabilitation work. If a second bridge was built, it could be used while the old bridge gets repaired. Minor repair works have been ongoing and they are keeping the bridge in a safe condition for now. But there is no doubt a major repair will be necessary at some point in the next decade.
So far, the environmental assessment phase of the twinning project was completed in April 2018. This involved contacting property owners who will be affected by the building of the new bridge. According to a Niagara Falls Review article from 2017, there are about 70 locations that need to contacted before any work can proceed. The MTO must acquire several public and private properties on the north side of the existing bridge and on the east and west sides of the Welland Canal. Negotiations have not yet begun with any private property owners. Currently, the province is working on advanced utility relocations required for the twinning project. Design work for the project hasn’t been started yet.
The article from 2017 also mentions the timeline of 2025 for the completion date. I am very surprised that an updated timeline wasn’t given this week. Currently, the Ontario government is struggling with their execution of new license plates. It seems like a big stretch to have a second skyway built and operational in 5 years from now. A realistic dollar amount for the project can’t even be determined until the design phase is completed. Please, get real people. Sure, a second skyway would be great for Niagara and is necessary so rehab work can happen on the existing bridge, but even 2030 doesn’t look realistic at this point!