Dain City feel­ing im­pact of bridge clo­sure

The Welland Tribune - - Front Page - STEVE HENSCHEL

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.

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