Thorold Mayor Terry Ugulini says he’s “hoping for a positive resolution” in response to concerns about maintaining two-way traffic through the Thorold Tunnel this winter.
The tunnel — reduced to two lanes as a result of an ongoing $15.8-million rehabilitation project — was closed to traffic entirely for 18 hours following a Nov. 11 snowstorm when it was discovered that barriers dividing the lanes in the north tube made them too narrow for snowplows to get through.
The incident led to concerns that the tunnel could be reduced to one-way traffic during the winter months to accommodate snow-clearing operations.
Such a move has not been confirmed by the Ministry of Transportation.
Ugulini joined representatives of Thorold, Niagara Falls, St. Catharines and Niagara Region on Monday with MTO representatives to discuss concerns.
“Our request has been the same all along. We want it to be safe, but we need to maintain traffic going through in both directions,” Ugulini said in an interview Tuesday.
“This affects everybody. It isn’t just a Thorold issue. We see the most impact because the tunnel is located in Thorold, but this affects the whole region. It’s a huge issue.”
While MTO spokeswoman Astrid Poei said the ministry is finalizing its winter maintenance plan for the tunnel and will “share it with the public shortly,” Ugulini said he’s hoping the plan will be released before the end of this week.
“Hopefully, sooner rather than later, we’ll have some news to share,” Ugulini said. “I’m cautiously optimistic, because I believe that we made a strong case and they heard us loud and clear.”
Meanwhile, he said tunnel repairs are having an impact on area businesses. And detouring vehicles along roads such as Glendale Avenue to allow for one-way traffic through the tunnel would only make things worse.
Niagara Emergency Medical Services spokesman Bryce Brunarski traffic patterns and highway construction detours are taken into consideration by paramedic dispatchers.
“We would like to see (the tunnel) remain with traffic going in both ways for not only ourselves but for motorists just to make things move easier … but we’ll always make sure that the residents are safe and response times are within limits,” he said.
Ugulini said traffic headaches resulting from tunnel repairs are poised to continue until spring 2021 — exacerbated by several other highway and road construction projects occurring concurrently.
“This is what’s complicating it, because of the amount of construction that’s going on. Even if you detour, you’re running into other issues,” he said. “In the end it’s going to be great, but in the meantime, it’s really frustrating for everybody.”
Source: St. Catharines Standard