Public gets early look at Windsor-Essex Parkway plans in southwestern Ontario

Daily Commercial News

RON STANG

WINDSOR, Ont. – The early work on the $1.4 billion Windsor-Essex Parkway will also see widening of the last existing four-lane stretch of Hwy. 401 in southwestern Ontario, which runs alongside Windsor.

The strip, which starts at the 401’s zero kilometre marker and heads northeast about three-quarters of a kilometre, will be widened to six-lanes, making it compatible with the remainder of Hwy 401 in Essex County 60 km east to Tilbury, Ont. which has been widened to six lanes over the past decade. It will also connect to the six-lane, nine-kilometre mostly sunken and partially-tunnelled new Parkway to the west, expected to be completed in 2014.

Work on this and several other early Parkway projects will begin in August and will be done simultaneously rather than from one end and proceeding to the other.

Officials with the Ministry of Transportation and the Windsor Essex Mobility Group (WEMG) — the private consortium building the Parkway that will lead to a new Windsor-Detroit bridge as part of the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) project — recently outlined the early stages of construction at a public open house here.

As part of widening Hwy 401, Windsor’s suburban North Talbot Road Bridge will have to be demolished. “There isn’t enough room under the existing structure,” said Philip Murray of the design team Parkway Infrastructure Contractors.

Demolition will be done over 55 consecutive hours, followed by another 55-hour weekend closure when pile driving and the raising of bridge girders will take place.

Also being constructed is the so-called Howard Avenue Diversion, which will replace existing Howard Avenue’s entrance to Windsor, a major two-lane thoroughfare connecting to southern municipalities.

The road will link with the municipality of LaSalle’s newly-constructed Laurier Parkway Extension to a roundabout connecting to Hwy 401’s on and off ramps, and Hwy 3. A carpool lot will also be constructed. The original Howard Avenue will end at a cul-de-sac.

The two-lane roundabout will be able to accommodate large trucks, and will be among the first roadways to handle traffic staging during Parkway construction.

Meanwhile, the Parkway’s western end, closer to official natural habitat sites and the Detroit River, has a “much lower elevation” than the existing city-owned E.C. Row Expressway, which the Parkway in that area will parallel as a surface road, Murray said. Consequently “the underlying materials in this area are very poor.”

As a result wick drains will have to be installed on embankments higher than three metres to force soil settling, along with a substantial amount of new silty-clay fill.

Hwy 3 (Talbot Road) and contiguous Huron Church Road currently comprise the 11-km route between the end of Hwy 401 and the existing Ambassador Bridge to Detroit, which sees thousands of trucks and passenger vehicles daily and is considered in ministry documents to be a “vital trade corridor.”

Officials said that roadway will be kept intact during Parkway construction.

Nevertheless, land use planner Cindy Prince of Prince & Associates, said this “may be the most challenging part of this project.”

During “core travelling hours” two lanes in each direction will be maintained. Reductions to one lane will be necessary for certain work but these will be done during late night hours.

More than 20 roads will be permanently closed in Windsor and neighbouring Tecumseh and LaSalle where they abut or otherwise have to make way for the Parkway.