Residents in the City of Welland are frustrated and disheartened over the closure of the Forks Road Bridge, formerly known as Bridge 18.
A new bridge will cost the city between 13 to 18 million dollars, something the City’s Mayor is taking to the Region, Provincial and Federal Governments.
Sharon Major is one of many residents frustrated by the closure of the Forks Road Bridge, “It’s important for emergency services, it’s important for transportation, business. It’s an integral link.”
The 300ft bridge, was one of the first to be built in the City of Welland in 1930. It connects the City of Welland to other municipalities including Port Colborne and Wainfleet.
With thousands using the bridge daily, businesses has noticed a dramatic decline in visitors.
Most residents are adding at least 10 minutes to their daily commute as a result of the closure. Co-chair of the Bridge 18 Committee Steven Michael Falusi wants answers. “These citizens are basically in uproar. They’re wondering where their taxpayer money has gone.” he says.
Falusi, like many others say the City knew the bridge would need to be replaced. Three years ago, repairs were made to maintain the bridge until at least 2020 when an engineering firm said it would need to be rebuilt.
Photos show how bad it is from underneath the bridge. Significant rust and corrosion, chunks have been breaking away. The biggest challenge according to the city engineer is the lack of funding to rebuild the bridge. Erik Nickel an Engineer of the City of Welland says, “We have an infrastructure deficit in excess of 20 million dollars on an annual basis, so we don’t have those types of funds available to us.”
Nickel says when the bridge was downloaded to the city from the region in 2000, plans weren’t made for its eventual demise. “We’re stuck with it now and we’re doing the best we can to ensure public safety.”
In the works is a plan to remove the bridge which will go before council for approval next week. From there, they’re looking for a funding source and they’ve already been rejected by the region.
Residents just want action and they plan to hold the city accountable.