February 17, 2006
Ontario’s earliest concrete bridge replaced
Preparations for a major upgrade to the 401 near London are helping to add details to the province’s infrastructure heritage.
Scheduled to get underway this spring, the $35 million project involves replacing the Wellington Road bridge and widening about three kilometres of nearby highway.
A design and construction report documenting the detail design and construction methods and staging is available for public review until February 25.
Dennis Regan, a spokesperson with the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario, said the bridge — technically billed as an underpass — was identified to be of heritage potential in a 2005 provincial heritage bridge guide. Of interest is its reinforced concrete, rigid frame, box girder structure.
Precast, prestressed concrete was first introduced into North American construction in 1949 and was introduced in Ontario in 1954 by a Sarnia manufacturer. Built in 1956 as part of the Woodstock to London section of Highway 401, the bridge “is one of the earliest concrete bridges in Ontario,” said Karla Barboza, a provincial heritage conservation advisor.
Just of what historical value the bridge might be and how best to preserve its heritage, however, are questions MTO and the Ministry of Culture are still working out.
The questions first arose “during our preliminary design stage of the project,” said Regan, when it was determined the bridge would have to be replaced.
While some documentation was completed as part of the environmental assessment requirement, the Ministry of Culture wanted additional assessment, he said.
Regan doubted the study would result in requirements that might interfere with the bridge’s removal.
More likely they would involve obtaining additional documentation.
“The project is staged over a two-year period and we are building a new structure to the east of the existing (bridge), so I guess the beginning of the project will see the bridge components (and associated road components),” Regan said.
Other key features of the project are: widening about three kilometres of Highway 401 to six lanes with median from four; changing the Wellington Road interchange to improve traffic flow and to create separate westbound highway access for Wellington and Exeter Roads; widening and rehabilitating the Dingman Drive bridge west of Wellington; improving access between the 401 and 402; installing new lighting and upgrading signage; and drainage improvements.
Regan said the need to accommodate increased traffic volumes in the area is the motivation behind the work.
It’s one of two major improvements taking place along the southwestern portion of the 401 this year, he said, referring to the second stage of a road-widening project near Tilbury also planned to begin this spring.
Currently, the ministry is finalizing design details for the London project and is in the last stage of obtaining environmental approvals, he said.
The project is a partnership between the provincial and federal governments and is partly funded by the Canada-Ontario Border Infrastructure Fund.
Copies of the design and construction report can be viewed at the government information centre in London as well as the Ministry of the Environment London office, the City of London, the Jalna branch of the London Public Library and Delcan Corporation.
The report was prepared for MTO by Delcan Corporation.
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