CORNWALL, Ontario – Cornwall City Council approved the nightly closure of Pitt St. effective July 25 until Sept. 17.
Council heard a presentation on Monday, July 22 from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) requesting that the street be closed from 9 p.m. until 6 a.m. every night during that time period. The reason for this being to facilitate the replacement of the eastbound Hwy. 401 overpass.
A superstructure has been built to help construct the replacement bridge, but this bridge has a clearance of only 3.6 metres, precluding the possibility of large transport trucks passing underneath.
The MTO has asked the contractor to employ flaggers at the construction zone to turn trucks away and they have also had helped from the Cornwall Police Service (CPS).
“Flaggers are turning around trucks continually. Presents significant health and safety risk to workers and motorists,” said Division Manager for Infrastructure Michael Fawthrop.
Around 15 trucks are turned away every day.
The MTO asked the contractor and the CPS to find the manpower to have flaggers on the road 24/7 to keep the road open and turn away trucks, but said that both told them that amount of manpower was not available.
The MTO had installed signs on Tollgate Rd., Cornwall Centre Rd., and South Branch Rd. warning trucks about the reduced clearance.
“Low clearance ahead signage is proving ineffective on Pitt St. 90 per cent of the time it is effective, but it is the 10 per cent we are worried about,” said Steven Consitt of the MTO.
Councillor Justin Towndale asked how these closures would affect Cornwall’s Emergency Services.
“Obviously, it has been pointed out there are resource issues to continue with the paid duties over the past several days,” said CPS Chief Dany Aikman. “We have concerns accessing the residential areas North of the 401, we will make due, but it is not an ideal situation.”
Cornwall Fire Services Deputy Chief Jeff Weber raised concerns about reaching the North End of Cornwall, especially with the ongoing construction and traffic delays on Brookdale Ave., another main northbound artery.
Cornwall Paramedic Chief Bill Lister said that the closure would not affect his service significantly, but raised concerns about delays in completing the construction on Hwy. 401.
“Don’t have big concerns,” he said. “We are deployed from the East. Our bigger concern is the 401, that is a major artery for us, and a higher risk for accidents. So if we could get the project done as quickly as we can, that would be best for us.”
Consitt said that the completion of the new eastbound Hwy. 401 bridge is on schedule for completion by mid-September, and that in 2020 work will begin on the replacement of the westbound bridge.
Consitt explained that when the westbound bridge is being built it will be redesigned with a higher clearance, but that this was not an option for the eastbound bridge at this stage without putting the completion schedule at risk. A redesign at this stage would mean that Hwy. 401 may not be opened back to two lanes by the winter, putting snow clearing operations at risk.
Councillors asked Chief Aikman if fines could be issued to truckers as a deterrent.
Councillor Dean Hollingsworth acknowledged that this was a difficult decision for Council to make, and that there was a safety risk that needed to be balanced either way.
“No matter how you spin it, there is a potential safety risk. If you close the road Emergency Services say we have a problem, if we don’t close it MTO said we have a problem,” he said. “Perhaps we could go and write fines . . . but the problem I see without enough data, as soon as there’s the notion there is no longer someone there giving out fines, someone will try to break the rules again.”
Councillor Grant voiced his support for the motion for “short-term pain for long-term gain.”
Councillor McIntosh concurred.
“If we have a truck going through there at night, we really will have a traffic stoppage,” he said. “It is the logical thing to do, it is just a shame that the Brookdale construction is having at the same time.”
The motion passed with only councillors Justin Towndale and Eric Bergeron dissenting.