By Terry Hughes
As mentioned in recent articles on the late Allan Pietz, he was always looking for ways to improve daily living in the city. A constant headache for Wellanders especially back in the 1950s and 1960s was the interruptions to movement from one side of the city to the other. The adoption by Welland of a one-way system of downtown traffic to alleviate congestion from constant raising of the bridge was only temporary as the number and size of the ships passing through the canal increased.
Traffic surveys on land transportation taken by Acres Consulting and data from the Seaway Authority showed that the Main Street bridge would be up as much as eight hours a day causing worsening traffic tie ups. When many of the east end industries shut down at four o’clock for shift change, cars were lined up solid from Scholfield Avenue to the bridge. The capacity of each of the three bridges to move traffic across the canal was being overtaxed. Throw in the constant interruption at railway crossings due industrial reliance on rail cars being shunted and there you have a community in disarray, traffic wise.
Unable to change traffic patterns of ships on the canal and/or train movements, Mr. Pietz succeeded in having the Seaway Authority place warning lights on the bridges to let people know ahead of time about the bridges being raised and from what direction vessels were coming. That would enable drivers to race to another bridge before it was raised. Another way of improving traffic movement when the Main Street bridge was up was to install small automated arrows over the third lane assisting traffic to move to King Street from East Main with minimal interruptions.
Mr. Pietz was very flexible in his thinking when it came to downtown development. Initially he supported construction of Hwy. 406 in the canal bed through the centre of the city but was open to other uses of the abandoned canal. However, public sentiment for leaving the waterway untouched would prevail.
When the canal bypass was under construction, he was able to promote the inclusion of a road along with the railway through an expanded Townline Tunnel and build a dock to handle any maritime business with local industries of the day.
These kinds of efforts would leave pleasant memories with those people who lived here at that time.
(Terry Hughes is a regular contributor to the blog. His column, Heritage Lives, appears once or twice monthly.)