Pedestrians and cyclists will still be able to go the usual route, but auto traffic faces a lengthy detour.
Municipal leaders have spent a lot of time arguing about the future of Toronto’s Port Lands, but always with the understanding that the district will require hundreds of millions of dollars in investment before any development can begin, because of how woefully inadequate all the infrastructure is down there. Anyone who wants to drive a car to Cherry Beach between November 12 and next June will experience some of the shakiness of the Port Lands’ equipment firsthand, thanks to some maintenance work on a single bridge that will effectively cripple auto traffic to the Port Lands’ southern tier.
The Ship Channel Bridge, at 81 years old, is the only bridge that spans the big ship channel that divides the Port Lands nearly in two. (Here’s a Google Map of the area, so you can see what we’re talking about.) It’s one of those bridges that can hinge open to allow tall boats to pass. These boats carry materials to some of the industrial concerns that do business in the Port Lands—we’re talking things like road salt, and aggregate for cement. On the other side of the bridge is Cherry Beach, a popular summer hangout.
Earlier this month, the Toronto Port Authority announced that the Ship Channel Bridge (which it owns) will be closing until June 2013 to accommodate repairs to its trunnions, which are the joints that allow the bridge to raise and lower. Though the bridge is expected to be open to pedestrian and bicycle traffic during that time, it won’t be open to motorized vehicles.
Since no other bridge spans the ship channel, cars will need to detour all the way around and approach Cherry Beach from Unwin Avenue, which will add about four kilometres to each trip. Obviously, this won’t be a big deal during the off season, but come May and June it could be inconvenient—especially considering the fact that the TTC usually runs seasonal buses over the bridge to Cherry Beach, beginning in Mid-may.
“We’re not expecting a big impact,” said Angus Armstrong, harbourmaster at the Toronto Port Authority. He thinks the effects on sunny-season beach visits will be minimal, though he admits that some boats will be inconvenienced. The Port Lands’ shipping season, which usually coincides with warmer weather, could be shortened by as many as six weeks.