HERITAGE LIVES: Council Meets An Unexpected Fork In The Road For Bridge Replacement

By Terry Hughes

Recent announcements concerning the Forks Road bridge indicated that replacement was to occur in 2020. Rapid deterioration of the substructure forced the city to close the bridge several months ago. It would seem that the east portion of the span was the area where most of the damage was done according to the city engineering department. Replacement time will have to be accelerated.
The cause may be found in the fact that eastbound traffic has to come to a complete stop at Kingsway and the salt solution dripping off the vehicles over time has reached the substructure eating away at the steel like a cancer. Westbound traffic after turning onto the bridge does not have to stop and therefore, the western portion of the span suffered minimal damage.
Initial inspection on the abutments under water of the present span indicate that the new span will be able to be placed on them thus reducing the cost of replacement. It was brought to the attention of the city that when being built, the lift bridge had some concerns over unstable banks requiring the bridge approach spans had to be lengthened and the slope of the canal bank increased to a 3 to 1 ratio.

Present span after decommissioning having its counterweights removed. Notice the debris piles on the ice below the bridge.

Photographs shown here give some interesting background on how the present canal impacted on this community. Looking south, the first photo taken from the year old railway lift bridge shows the old swing span being dismantled in 1928. The canal has been widened to twice its width and both sides of the predecessor span at Forks Road is now available for shipping. Notice how close the road of the day was to the canal on the left side of the photo. The road had to be moved to its present location when the present span was built and that is why the road, today, swings away from the canal at the Dain City House. The large building near that swing span was probably Bridgeview School.
The second photo shows the present span after decommissioning having its counterweights removed. Notice the debris piles on the ice below the bridge. This must have accumulated over time and hastened the deterioration process of the substructure. One could make the argument that this is the reason for our present problem and this structure’s replacement should be funded by the federal government. A picture appearing in the city’s 150th anniversary photo book, made by former Tribune photographer Bob Chambers, shows all of the bridges up. The closest bridge was at Broadway and you can see the duct work that would carry away water and debris that does not show on the photo of the Forks Road Bridge thus supporting this argument.
Finally, the only bridge on the canal that was never painted silver was the railway bridge. It was the first lift bridge built on the canal in 1927.

(Source: Celebrating 150 Years/Photo by Bob Chambers, Welland Tribune)

Next Column: Welland’s Best-Looking City Hall

(Terry Hughes is a Wellander who is passionate about heritage, history and model railroading. His opinion column, Heritage Lives, appears on the blog once or twice monthly.)

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