Saturday, August 23, 2008

Is the Skyway safe from below?

John Schudlo wrote in “Skyway safe, officials assure” (Niagara This Week, Aug.8, 2007) about Rene Moreau, who often drives over the St. Catharines Skyway, saying: “I’m always worried about it when I go over that bridge because of the work that they always seem to be doing on it and the age of it…That skyway is scary, man.”

Then-Tourism Minister Jim Bradley, the Liberal MPP for St. Catharines was quoted in the story saying that people don’t need to be alarmed, and that the construction work is routine. Bradley “said people should have faith in their bridges because the provincial government – which looks after the 43-year old skyway, is very committed to inspecting them.”

“There is a pretty rigorous process involved with bridges” said Bradley “It’s sophisticated stuff.”

But does this rigorous inspection Bradley talked about include assessing what’s under and near the bridge?

In light of the propane blast several weeks ago in Toronto, will Jim Bradley, now Ontario’s Transportation Minister, publicly issue assurances that there is absolutely no danger having propane trucks parked near the bridge piers, or having a large four-tank propane station about 300 metres away? Officials in Toronto were saying that a safe zone should be about 1.6 kilometres away.

How safe is the Skyway should the worst happen? What contingencies has Bradley’s ministry prepared?

In the above Niagara This Week article, Transportation Ministry spokesperson, Jamie Rilett, said about the pier maintenance: “I think people should have confidence that we are doing our due diligence…We do take it very seriously. If anything does concern us, we do err on the side of caution.”

So, then, is having propane stored so close to a bridge a concern to Jim Bradley?

(click on photos to enlarge) (above) Looking north under the Skyway, a row of truck-mounted propane tanks are parked near the bridge pier, and more permanent tanks can be seen farther back. (above) This newer 4-tank storage facility is about 300 metres north of the QEW Skyway bridge, which can be seen in the background to the right.

(above) Looking north under the Skyway, about six propane-tanker trucks can be seen parked very close to one of the bridge piers currently under restoration. (below) Same location, looking south, showing proximity of parked tankers near Skyway.

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