Members of Prince Edward County Council along with senior staff were provided an update on the five year Skyway Bridge rehabilitation project Thursday
Quinn Mieske, contract services administrator and Muhammad Waseem, project engineer spoke at the Commitee of the whole meeting at Shire Hall on behalf of the Ministry of Transportation with regards to what portions of $76 million bridge rehabilitation are underway and what’s ahead for one of four fixed links connecting Prince Edward County to the mainland.
The bridge was originally built over a three year span and officially opened during Canada’s Centennial year.
A 17-span, two-lane high level bridge that runs 847 m in length, the rehabilitation project for Skyway calls for the replacement of the superstructure including girders, deck and bearings, reconstruction of abutments including new caissons and wing walls, Rehabilitation and strengthening of piers, New approach slabs , Reconstruction of highway approaches to the bridge and new illumination.
In total, there are five segments to be replaced with the 185 m centre segment to see work starting this spring.
The final piece will involve the north (Deseronto) end and construction will take place in the spring and summer of 2023.
Wassem explained that the project would require a ‘Half-and-half’ staged construction with a single-lane of bi-directional traffic on the bridge controlled by temporary traffic signals for each segment, one at the intersection of County roads 49 and 15 on the southern side of Skyway Bridge and the other at the intersection of Highway 49 and Airport road on the northern end.
This would minimize delays to local traffic on both side of the bridge according Wassem.
“One lane will be open would be open to traffic all the time during the construction period and, after the seasonal shutdown (winter), all lanes will be available,” Wassem said. “There will be full closures and those will be during the night time only in order to facilitate the heavy lifting of steels beams and heavy girders to ensure safety for workers and the public.
Advance notifications for the full closures will be provided through letters, public service announcements, and the project website and affected agencies including EMS, Police, Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital, Fire Department, and School Boards will be notified prior to any full closure.
The general public will also be notified via the media and social media and passage for emergency vehicles shall be readily available at all times.
It’s expected there will be around 50 full lane closures during the project’s time line and those will be anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours in length.
County Rd. 35, a roadway that runs underneath Skyway Bridge, will also be impacted as workers will muster and lift beams and other deck portions into place from the road.
These single lane closures at that affected road will only occur in 2022 to facilitate the construction work on segment E and will require a maximum of five night closures (30 minutes to 2 hours duration) during lifting of girders for the public safety
Wassem added that advanced notification signs will be provided at strategic locations throughout the area including Highway 401 and that all full closures greater than 30 minutes duration would be done in police presence as per MTO guidelines.
Mieske explained project preparation work has been well underway stretching back to 2018 including strengthening of a number of piers and steel structural repairs for existing girders .
As well, the website www.hwy49quinteskyway.ca would be unique to the project, offering daily photos and eventually five live camera feeds of work from five stationary cameras.
“We’ve already had about 10,000 hits to the website so obviously the public is interested and already looking into the project,” Mieske said.
Work on segment C (centre portion) is expected to get underway in April 2019 with two lane travel on Skyway expected to flow starting in December during the seasonal shutdown.
With Skyway bridge being such a vital and regularly reliable and consistent link for both tourists coming to Prince Edward County as well as workers that commute to Napanee and Kingston, council took an opportunity to voice concerns and raise questions on behalf of constituents.
Councillor Mike Harper wondered what delays there might be on a Friday night of a long weekend for people looking to exit or enter Prince Edward County and if there was some way the website might inform motorists.
Mieske said that type of functionality had yet to be built into the website but it could be a possibility.
Councillor Bill Roberts said residents and businesses made requests during last year’s public consultation process for dedicated turning lanes from County rds. 49 onto 15 and vice versa so that residents that live in that area aren’t forced to sit in lengthy queues of north-south traffic.
“It’s a pretty practical suggestion but there’s no evidence here,” Roberts said.
Wassem pledged to Roberts to re examine the public input and see what could be formulated out of such a request.
Councillor Brad Nieman asked about what kind of delays could be expected as there were some scenarios bandied about during the public consultation that called for 20 minute traffic stoppages.
Wassem said through the process it became clear the socioeconomic impacts would be too great for such lengthy delays and that stops at either temporary traffic light would be “minimal”
“What’s minimal? It’s fine to say minimal what does that mean? Five, ten minutes?” Nieman pressed.
Again, Wassem declined to offer an exact time in terms of idling in a traffic queue but it’s believed the temporary traffic light signals will cycle every three to five minutes dependant on current queue length.
Nieman also asked the MTO representatives of having a second ferry added to the Glenora/Adolphustown service during the months of project operations.
During discussions, it was offered by CAO James Hepburn and agreed upon that the municipality would send a letter requesting extended ferry service to the project management group that would in turn be forwarded to the MTO’s marine division.