By Sue Stefko
(Appeared in the Glebe Report, February 2021)
The Bronson Avenue bridge over Highway 417 will be replaced as part of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s (MTO) Midtown Bridges project, which will replace 10 bridges in five locations on Highway 417 between Preston and Percy Streets.* While the Bronson bridge replacement isn’t expected until year three (approximately 2023), the project is expected to start in 2021, including road closures and detours as part of construction and staging activities.
Most imminently for the Glebe Annex, sections of Orangeville will be closed to create a staging area starting at some point in 2021. (Timing will depend on the award of the construction contract). It will be closed between Rochester St. and Booth St., as well as between Booth St. and Lebreton St. S. for the entirety of the construction period, allowing traffic to travel along Booth St. Access will also remain to the Natural Resources Canada complex parking lot on Orangeville. Other near-term closures include the Bronson eastbound offramp, which is expected to close for 10 months starting this year, to enable the extension of the offramp and other works along the south side of the highway.
North of the 417, Raymond St will be closed between Rochester St. and Booth St. for approximately 20 months in years one and two of the project (2021 and 2022), as it will be part of the staging areas for construction of the new Rochester and Booth St. bridges. In addition, Raymond St. will be reduced to a single lane of traffic from Lebreton St. North to Booth St. for approximately 20 months to complete work on the north side of the highway. Carling and Bronson will be major detour routes throughout the project (although at times the north/southbound traffic will be diverted to Rochester or Booth streets) as a result of highway and ramp closures.
The main changes being proposed for the Bronson interchange include lengthening the offramp, widening the offramp to add a third lane, and realigning Chamberlain Ave. to allow eastbound motorists to continue straight (instead of taking the jog south at Bronson). However, motorists who are turning onto Chamberlain from Bronson cannot use the newly realigned Chamberlain – they must still turn at the existing jog, so as not to back up traffic to affect the Bronson Ave./Catherine St. intersection. Other minor changes include updated lighting, utility relocations where required, and changes to the existing traffic lights.
A new 5-metre-high noise barrier will replace the existing one from Booth St. to the Bronson Ave. off-ramp. Where possible, the barrier will be made of composite concrete panels. However, when the noise barrier needs to be mounted to a structure, such as at the Bronson overpass, as well as the retaining wall from Bell St S. to Arthur Lane S., a thinner and lighter material (acrylite) will be used instead.
The Glebe Annex Community Association (GACA) is pleased with some aspects of the plan, such as the replacement of noise barriers, and the realignment of Chamberlain Ave. for motorists proceeding east via the off-ramp. In the interest of safety, we would have preferred to see all traffic use the realigned Chamberlain, to stop southbound motorists from having to turn left across Bronson (without the benefit of a traffic light) to access Chamberlain St.
We are also concerned for pedestrians at the off-ramp, which will force pedestrians to cross an additional lane of traffic. The intersection is already a dangerous one, as motorists speed through the offramp onto Bronson without checking for pedestrians – even at a red light. We are continuing to work to ensure that pedestrian safety is taken into consideration when the intersection is reconfigured, including clear signage to alert motorists to pedestrians.
Finally, while outside our neighbourhood, GACA would like to see more public spaces, such as the expansion of Glebe Memorial Park as Chamberlain Ave. moves north, creating additional potential park space.
With construction of the 289 Carling supportive housing project already underway, as well as the 16-storey seniors’ residence at 275 Carling and the 7-unit apartment on 7 Maclean expected to start soon, with additional road closures and detours added into the mix, our neighbourhood will be impacted for some time. GACA will continue to do our best to keep the community informed and will try to mitigate where possible. We also hope to keep hearing from the community on the challenges and frustrations you face, so we can represent the community’s concerns.