After 10 long years, the newly rebuilt Mewburn Road Bridge will finally offer drivers another connection between Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Falls.
On Tuesday afternoon the bridge passing over the CN Rail line along Mewburn Road near the Mountain Road roundabout was officially reopened.
In 2009 the original bridge was closed due to “deformations and severe section loss of the main structural steel members,” Sherri-Marie Millar, project manager and engineer for Niagara Falls, said in an email response.
After several years of negotiations, CN Rail agreed to pay up to $1.5 million to share the cost of constructing the new bridge. The Town of NOTL committed to $250,000 and Niagara Region covered the remaining cost. During initial talks with CN Rail, the company was willing to pay just under $600,000 for the bridge’s replacement – but the region and city of Niagara Falls wanted to build a wider bridge and include bike lanes and paved shoulders.
Historical research showed that Mewburn Road existed as a farmer road in the 1840s, and CN Rail wasn’t built until the 1850s, Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati said.
“The road was here before the train tracks – basically what that means is we got more money out of CN. So, really important on the timing,” Diodati said.
The $5 million investment is a project that Niagara Region chair Jim Bradley said he is confident will “stand for generations.”
The winning bid of about $3.7 million for construction of the bridge was awarded to Dufferin Construction Company; final construction costs were closer to $3.5 million, Millar confirmed. The total for the entire project, which included pre-design investigations, engineering, a legal survey, property purchases, material and quality control testing brought the entire project total to the $5 million mark, she said.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero said she believes the bridge will offer another, safer route for the many transport trucks and vehicles travelling into town – keeping them out of the centre of the “vibrant” community of St. Davids.
“We have many people on York Road, and this will allow a safer York Road and a safer downtown and a safer village,” she said.
Although the bridge is now officially open, Disero said the town will still have work to do to improve the remainder of the road leading into town.
She added that, in next year’s budget, council will need to allot money to repair Mewburn Road, which turns into Concession 6 Road.
“I’m looking forward to having our guys come forward in our 2021 budget to complete the road on the other side of the bridge down to York Road so people will have safe travels,” she said.
Local resident and previous council member Paolo Miele said he’s concerned about the safety of the road on the NOTL side of the bridge.
“My biggest concern is the safety of human life right at that intersection at Concession 6 and York Roads … You’ve got kids out on ATVs and motorcycles and farming equipment out there,” he said, adding that the influx of trucks and traffic travelling from the bridge may open the town up to more collisions.
“From what I remember there were two fatalities at that intersection,” Miele said.
He said the stretch along Concession 6 Road is narrow, and one large truck travelling down the hill will take up the entire road, which he said will cause problems and possible safety issues as well.
Above and beyond convenience, Diodati said in those moments “when seconds really matter,” the new connection between the two communities will allow emergency services from Niagara Falls to reach areas like York Road and Warner Road.
“We’re going to be able to take care of them much better. It’s an important connector for both our communities,” he said.
Diodati recalled the last time he drove down the bridge with his family, before its decade closure.
“We would maybe accelerate a little bit because the kids liked to catch air,” he said. “Little did I know (part of the bridge) had come unattached and it was really dangerous.”
That last time he drove over he said, “we really caught air” and the deteriorating bridge was shut down the next week.
But after years of negotiations and plans, he said he’s proud to say the bridge is complete.
“Finally, we’ve got this beautiful bridge,” Diodati said.