Dain City feeling impact of bridge closure
Just a week into the abrupt, and indefinite, closure of the Forks Road Bridge residents and businesses of Dain City are already starting to feel the impact.
The bridge, built in 1930, is one of two vehicular accesses to the community, the other being Canal Bank Street, which runs from the north along the east side of the recreational canal into the community bounded by that body of water and the Welland Canal. The city closed the bridge, citing structural concerns, Nov. 3. Residents, and businesses are already rallying for the city to move forward on repairs or replacement of the bridge, especially as the few local businesses in the area begin to feel the pinch of declining through traffic.
“Our store depends on the traffic,” said Christine Zhang of Dain City Convenience, located just north of the bridge now restricted to pedestrian traffic. She said, by her estimates, business has dropped by at least 50 per cent as cars no longer pass through the area making their way from Wainfleet or Port Colborne into Welland.
“With the bridge closed there’s no people, no traffic, no customers,” said Zhang, whose store serves as a vital retail outlet for residents needing to quickly purchase basic items like milk without taking the time to drive into Welland. Over her six years at the store Zhang said she hasn’t seen business drop off like this.
“I cannot survive,” she said, as area resident Jean Rogers entered the store. Like many others, Rogers was quick to discuss the bridge closure with Zhang, signing a petition for action being circulated by area residents.
“We’ve got to have this bridge open,” said Rogers, who moved to Dain City due to the easy access to Port Colborne, where her family lives. That quick route is now closed, adding to the senior’s travel costs, stretching a fixed pension income. She voiced fears over emergency access with only one road open. The city is working to ensure secondary access to the area via the Seaway Service
Road, however that road is not open to members of the public.
A closure of Dain City Convenience would be a hit to the community, according to Rogers.
“If they close, we have nothing,” she said, before wondering why the city doesn’t install beams across the bridge entrances to enforce a height restriction, and thus prevent the heavy trucks cited as a concern during the closure from crossing.
Ward 6 Coun. Bonnie Fokkens echoed many of those same concerns.
“It has been crazy,” said Fokkens, who has been inundated with residents’ calls and concerns since the closure.
She has been working with a group of concerned citizens and fellow ward Coun. Jim Larouche to form an official city committee, the Dain City residential bridge committee, to address the concerns at council. The pair of councillors plan to introduce the petition, and a notice of motion in the hopes of having the bridge reopened as soon as possible, after the new term of city council begins on Dec. 4. In the interim two public meetings and an update to council have been planned.
“This affects 650 homes,” said Fokkens, noting a detour around the bridge takes roughly 15 minutes. With homes on the west side of the recreational waterway cut off she voiced concerns for businesses, but also All Saints Anglican Church members, many of whom are seniors, and those participating in Dain City recreation programs. Closing of the convenience store, she said, would be devastating for many, especially those who rely on public transit. Currently no bus services the area, instead residents must rely on TransCab to take them to the city’s downtown terminal to connect with a bus. If the store closes, Fokkens said residents relying on transit could spend hours just to pick up a quart of milk.
“We need a safe workable bridge,” said Fokkens.
Repairs of the bridge were completed as a stop gap in 2016, however those efforts could not hold off accelerating corrosion. Replacement — estimated to cost roughly $12 million — has long been on the city radar, however repeated attempts for upper tier government funding have fallen on deaf ears according to Fokkens. She hopes to introduce a motion alongside Larouche to make the bridge a 2019 budget item, be it repairs or replacement.
“I’m talking full refurbishment,” said Fokkens.
Due to the closure of the Forks Road Bridge, Christine Zhang of Dain City Convenience is facing a concerning drop in customers.