Vickie Swales’ family has lived on a stretch of St. Clair Street facing the Blue Water Bridge in Point Edward since 1922.
They learned to live with the noise and dust during construction of two international spans. They also adapted to increasingly heavy truck traffic and multiple bridge plaza changes.
But this time Swales says the Federal Bridge Corporation has gone too far.
“They have no respect for the neighbourhood,” she says. “My grandparents built this house, my mom and dad married here. My uncle Dick Kirkland was born here, and I’ve lived here more than 50 years.”
Expanding services at the bridge seemed acceptable until this spring when construction for a new service road began just metres from the house Swales shares with husband Chris Fitzpatrick.
“They tore down four houses that had been a buffer between us and the bridge,” said Fitzpatrick.
“Then they began tamping the gravel and shaking our house. Sometimes it vibrates and makes so much noise we have to stop our conversation if we are in the yard.”
“We live across the street from a trucking yard,” said Swales.
Lesley Fraser and her partner Lucinda Wallace are new owners of the house at 302 Charles St. that directly faces the construction site.
“I am very concerned about the aesthetics,” said Fraser. “Given how close the ramp comes to the sidewalk, I hope they’ll think about fencing and trees.”
Fraser and Wallace are from Toronto and bought the house in Point Edward believing they were moving to a quiet village.
“We’re used to noise in Toronto, so the noise from the bridge doesn’t bother us. It’s white noise to us.
But the loss of trees and a buffer is another issue, said Fraser. “We try to laugh about it. We call it truckland.”
Mayor Bev Hand said she’s aware of the neighbours’ concerns because of social media comments. But no formal complaints have been made to council recently, she said.
“Vickie (Swales) sent letters in the past and she was told to talk to (Bridge Director) Joe Dedecker,” Hand said. “People have to remember it’s the federal government that owns the bridge. We (village officials) have no power in how this goes.
“We can try to influence it, but that’s it.”
Hand said she sympathizes with the neighbours. “I grew up on that street,” she said. “It’s devastating to see the changes in that area.”
Village CEO Jim Burns said the municipality has never seen a site plan or been provided details that show if the neighbourhood will be buffered from the new truck ramp and service road.
The Journal asked to speak to authorities with the Blue Water Bridge and was directed to Andre Girard with the Federal Bridge Corporation in Ottawa.
The Federal Bridge Corporation intends to erect a 2.5 metre noise barrier on top of the slope, as well as fencing and gardens along St. Clair Street, said Girard.
The service road isn’t expected to handle more than 20 vehicles a day, creating a minimum amount of additional noise.
“However, in an effort to be good corporate citizens and neighbours, a noise barrier has been included in the project along with tree planting and landscaping to reduce potential impacts to residents,” said Girard.
Village officials have asked Ottawa if some empty bridge-owned lots next to Veteran’s Park could be used to extend the park, but Ottawa has not responded.
At a recent meeting with Dedecker, Burns and Hand say they were told seismograph equipment is being used to monitor vibrations produced by heavy construction on the site.
“Residents should pay attention to cracks in their walls and take note if and when they show up,” Burns advised.
He also suggested MP Marilyn Gladu may be able to field complaints.
The new service road isn’t expected to be complete until June of 2019. Six months will be required to let the gravel settle before the ramp can be finished.
Once done, it will be used to return vehicles to the U.S. if they don’t clear customs, and to provide emergency access to the bridge.