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Broken Port Lands crossing putting dangerous strain on single-lane bridge | CBC News

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A Toronto city councillor is sounding the alarm about a traffic boondoggle in the Port Lands caused by the weeks-long closure of a bridge that is critical to getting in and out of the industrial waterfront area.

The 92-year-old Ship Channel Bridge, a lift bridge extending over the freshwater commercial shipping lane that nearly bisects the Port Lands, has been stuck in the “up” position since April 22.

That means vehicle traffic entering and exiting the southern expanse of the Port Lands has been shunted to the much smaller Unwin Avenue bridge — an expanse not intended to accommodate repeated use by heavy trucks that need to access the area.

“It’s never supposed to be used like this,” Coun. Paula Fletcher told CBC Toronto as transport and dump trucks transited the single-lane bridge behind her. 

“But it’s the only way on and off this section of the Port Lands now.”

The Ship Channel Bridge is operated by PortsToronto, a federal public authority. It is on the most direct route from the downtown core to the popular Cherry Beach, as well as to a number of industrial sites, sailing clubs and film studios based on the waterfront.

Fletcher said the city was initially told the Ship Channel Bridge, which is currently undergoing a years-long rehabilitation process, would be repaired in May. But the latest word from PortsToronto is a timeline won’t be available until July 1, she said.

“We have a 92-year-old lift bridge over a shipping channel…. When you run out of a part, you can’t just go up the street to Canadian Tire. It was fabricated somewhere in Europe,” Fletcher said.

“So I think in the long run we have to answer the question, how long is that going to be serviceable? But that’s a federal problem, not a city problem.”

The Ship Channel Bridge in the Port Lands has been stuck in the ‘up’ position since April 22. (Daniel Dadoun/CBC)

For now, Fletcher wants added traffic control measures at the Unwin Avenue bridge, including more paid-duty police officers and flag people to direct vehicles.

In response to the increased strain on the bridge, the city is beginning emergency repairs that will see the bridge intermittently closed over several days.

“Daily inspections have shown an accelerated rate of deterioration and immediate action is required to maintain the bridge,” a city briefing on the state of the bridge concluded.

The work will run from 8 p.m. Wednesday to 10 a.m. Thursday, and then again from 8 p.m. Thursday to 10 a.m. Friday.

During the work periods, vehicles will be allowed to cross the bridge every 15 to 20 minutes, though drivers are being advised to avoid the area altogether if possible, the city said.

Pedestrians and cyclists can continue to use the adjacent Martin Goodman Trail Bridge to access the lower Port Lands.

The Unwin Avenue bridge was already slated for rehabilitation in 2024, and the city says that work will move ahead as planned once the Ship Channel Bridge reopens. 

But Fletcher questions whether a new, wider bridge should eventually be built, given the unreliability of the aging Ship Channel Bridge.

“My issue is that the PortsToronto bridge has been broken many times,” she said. “If both bridges go out of commission at one time, we are just out of luck.”

Fletcher said the future of the Unwin Avenue bridge will be a priority for her at city council moving forward.

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