Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Q.E.W. shut down in St. Catharines due to concrete falling from Martindale bridge

(click on photos to enlarge!) Above: Ontario St. north side of QEW. Police blocking Toronto-bound entrance ramp to QEW.
Below: QEW with empty lanes, looking at east side of Martindale Rd. overpass (in the far right distance) where crews are examining the bridge. The concrete arch bridge in the foreground is the Henley Bridge, which crosses Twelve Mile Creek.

Above: Toronto-bound traffic being re-routed from the QEW onto Ontario St.
Below: View on Martindale bridge over QEW, looking north, Apr.29, 2008, about half an hour after the QEW below was re-opened to traffic. The bridge once carried streetcars travelling from St. Catharines to Port Dalhousie. The old track right-of-way is still there (centre of photo). To the left of where the tracks once ran, separated by a concrete median strip, is Martindale Rd. CHCH news reported that this bridge consists of two separate structures (one being the old streetcar bridge, and the other carrying the road portion) which are side by side, with the concrete median covering the gap (as can be seen in the photo below in the center). Construction activity on top of the bridge caused a piece of concrete to fall onto the highway from within this gap between these bridges. The area where this happened, on the median at the south end of the bridge (over the Niagara-bound QEW lanes) can be seen in the below photo (at the left side), where crews placed a wooden platform over the median. A slab of concrete (which had been part of the median covering the gap between the two bridges) can be seen laying in front of the wooden platform.
above: same view, prior to construction, with the track bed and median more clearly visible. Until construction work began to replace this bridge, this is how it looked for decades after the streetcars stopped running. Note the trees still along Martindale Rd. in the left background. Photo from web "Historic bridges of Michigan and Elsewhere."
Above: Taken by R. Bobak on Mar. 24, 2008. Martindale bridge looking south along the concrete median. The place from where the debris fell was at the far (south) end. Clearly heavy equipment has been regularly traversing over the median as can be seen by the treadmarks over the cement.
Above and below: the west side of the Martindale bridge over the QEW in St. Catharines, as seen on Apr.29, 2008. This is the side where the new bridge is starting to be built.
Above: same view, west side of Martindale Rd. bridge over the QEW, taken earlier on Mar.24, 2008. The hydro poles had not yet been moved, and the original railings are still in place.
Above: Traffic backed up on Toronto-bound QEW, looking west from Ontario St. overpass, Apr.29, 2008
Below: two VIDEOS showing rare view an empty-laned QEW after it was shut down both ways in St. Catharines, Apr.29, 2008. By R. Bobak. (It was strangely quiet with the traffic from this extremely busy highway suddenly gone - one could hear the birds - and the police and news helicopters flying above!!) The Martindale Rd. bridge can be seen being examined by crews in the distance.

above: Here's something one rarely sees: the QEW was shut down both ways in St. Catharines on Apr.29, 2008, due to concrete falling down from the old Martindale overpass. The current bridge, one of the original QEW bridges built in 1939, is scheduled for demolition, once a new bridge, which is now under construction, is built immediately to the west of the old current bridge.

Huge traffic snarls ensued throughout St. Catharines as motorists were stuck, many of course, not knowing how to get to the other side of Twelve Mile Creek. All roads leading to Port Dalhousie were clogged during this rush-hour mess. The highway itself was jammed with trapped cars, trucks, and buses for miles each way.
This bottleneck is always prone to such trouble, as to this day, no service roads exist paralleling the highway. Hope Transportation Minister Jim Bradley provides a thorough explanation for how this occurred. Doesn't the City of St. Catharines, along with the Transportation Ministry, have some kind of emergency routing system in place when these QEW emergencies happen? Highway traffic is just dumped onto the local streets, causing overwhelming chaos. Fire and ambulance service must surely be affected locally when such unexpected closures occur. Some vehicles attempted to cut around police vehicles blocking the entrance ramps, to try to to get back onto the highway! The Toronto-bound lanes were re-opened to traffic first, at 6:46 pm, then the Niagara-bound lanes were re-opened at 7:06 pm. Below is a CTV news report from Apr. 29, 2008:

Below: Looking north on Martindale bridge the next day, Apr.30, 2008; the platform covering the hole now has yellow tape around it.

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