By Robin MacLennan
Ontario Construction News writer
Ontario’s Minster of Transportation says she’s asked senior officials in her office to look for solutions to Niagara’s Thorold Tunnel woes.
Caroline Mulroney was responding in the legislature Thursday to concerns raised by Niagara Centre MPP Jeff Burch about the closure of the busy tunnel to eastbound traffic, making it one-way only.
After a recent snowstorm, the MTO realized two-way traffic in the north tube is a safety hazard and will restrict traffic to one way in the tunnel. In order to accommodate snowplows, both lanes must travel in one direction.
It means vehicles travelling west to Thorold and St. Catharines will still be able to use the tunnel. However, vehicles heading eastbound to Niagara Falls would have to find an alternate route.
Niagara-area wrote a letter to Mulroney, asking for a “more feasible solution ” after learning the Ministry planned to end two-way traffic through the tunnel. The suggest a better solution would be to close the tunnel for a short period of time when there’s a snow event rather than one-way traffic all winter.
“I recognize and I appreciate the difficulties that the closures at the Thorold Tunnel are having for motorists in the area,” Mulroney said in Queen’s Park.
Mulroney said since learning of the issue last week, she has directed senior officials in her office and the ministry to develop new solutions and to report back to her. Elements of this story were originally reported in the St. Catharines Standard.
The Thorold Tunnel, which has been under construction since 2018, consists of two tubes separating traffic in either direction which run along Highway 58 under the Welland Canal.
Aecon Construction Materials Limited (Aecon) is rehabilitating the Thorold Tunnel and occupying Highway (Hwy) 58 for construction activities from Pine Street to Davis Drive in Thorold. Construction began on March 18.
The south tube was closed for refurbishment, so the north tube was converted to two-way traffic with temporary concrete barriers dividing the lanes.
During the first snowstorm of the season on Nov. 11, the north tube had to be shut down for 18 hours when it was discovered the barriers made the lanes too narrow for snowplows.
The work includes repairing deteriorated concrete, sealing joints and cracks, and maintaining pavement drainage. The project is also addressing the storm system and pumping station and includes major electrical work such as tunnel lighting, electrical controls and building electrical services.
The ministry expects to complete its construction project at the site next year. The project has reduced traffic to a narrow single lane in each direction in one of the tubes, while construction crews work on the other.