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Belleville discusses new sidewalks on highway overpasses

The current walkway at the Sidney Street overpass over highway 401 is low and covered in snow. Photo by Joseph Quigley. [1]

The current walkway at the Sidney Street overpass over highway 401 covered in snow. Photo by Joseph Quigley.

By Joseph Quigley [2]

BELLEVILLE – Concern for pedestrian safety has Belleville city council exploring the addition of sidewalks to the city’s Highway 401 overpasses.

The overpasses at Sidney Street as well as highways 62 and 37 currently lack concrete sidewalks. A permanent sidewalk for the Sidney Street bridge will wait until a planned project to expand Sidney Street moves forward. A temporary asphalt walkway for the bridge has been allotted $150,000 in this year’s Capital Budget Plan. [3]

Councillor Paul Carr [4], who originally brought this issue forward, said that these sidewalks are important to public safety.

“What I’ve noticed over a number of years is we have a significant amount of pedestrian traffic that use the overpasses. And as they are currently constructed, they’re not safe. Winter time (the snow is) typically not even removed off the shoulders. So we have pedestrians basically walking in traffic. Clearly, we want to make it easier for residents on either side of the 401 to cross back and forth,” he said.

Highways 62 and 37 are under provincial jurisdiction. Costs for adding sidewalks to both bridges are projected at $1.4 million according to a report by the city’s manager of engineering [5]. The Ontario Ministry of Transportation [6] is reviewing the expansion of Highway 401, which will delay more permanent changes to these highway overpasses.

Carr raised the possibility of adding temporary asphalt sidewalks to these overpasses at Thursday’s budget meeting, but it was determined that would still cost a lot to do that.

Mayor Taso Christopher recently met with the ministry to discuss the need to improve the overpasses and highway maintenance. He said he was optimistic about the discussions.

“They brought to our attention that they want to have meetings with senior staff (towards) reviewing six lanes on the 401. It’s good news, it kind of still puts us in limbo, but at least we’re having good dialogue now with the (Ontario Ministry of Transportation).”

Councillor Carr said that this issue is important to residents living in the north of the city.

“Talking with the residents that I represent in Thurlow, they feel isolated. We need to look at alternatives to get people to move around. I heard a lot of families complain, ‘look, I don’t feel safe crossing the 401 with my family to go over to the riverside park.’ When I hear that story consistently over the election, I knew that it was an issue. I believe it is incumbent on the city to try to do its part and try to tackle this issue in the name of public safety.”