Four houses on the south side of St. Clair Street in Point Edward have been demolished to make way for a long awaited emergency return road at the Blue Water Bridge.
The road is the first in a series of improvements for the Canadian plaza, announced last year by the Federal Bridge Corporation Limited (FBCL) that operates the Blue Water Bridge.
A contract for $2.1 million has been awarded to Brandon Contractors of Sarnia to construct a road, which will allow Canada-bound traffic to more easily return to the U.S. and provide unrestricted bridge access to emergency vehicles.
An archeological dig – required for all major construction where indigenous artifacts may be located – was conducted last summer, according to FBCL spokesman Andre Girard.
“Nothing came out of it, so construction work is moving ahead,” he said.
Village officials have heard concerns from residents overlooking the construction site, said Point Edward CAO Jim Burns.
“Bridge operations are moving closer to the residential neighbourhood. That’s part of why we’d like some of that property developed into a buffer, possibly with trees, for the residents,” Burns said.
The Bridge Corporation is not subject to municipal planning and doesn’t require village permits for construction on bridge property, but village and Bridge officials have a close working relationship and have discussed an expansion of Veteran’s Park at the cenotaph to provide more green space, Burns said.
Bridge officials have purchased almost every house on the south side of St. Clair abutting bridge property and replaced them with maintenance buildings and other amenities for the bridge.
The recent demolition of four more houses represents a loss of tax revenue for the village but will make efficient bridge operations safer and more efficient.
In particular, commercial traffic will be more easily returned to the U.S. and maintenance and delivery vehicles will have better access to the plaza.
The emergency return road will connect the commercial compound on the south side of the bridge to the plaza and bridge approach on the north side.
Once the road is complete, the old administration building on the plaza will come down later this year. It was left vacant after the new office building opened on Venetian Boulevard in 2009.
The Blue Water Bridge is Canada’s second busiest border crossing for commercial traffic with over 1.5 million trucks annually.