There will be no lane reductions on Highway 34 which had been planned as part of the overpass replacement to take place at the junction of Highway 17 and 34, council learned on Tuesday at its first-ever committee of the whole meeting.
Representatives from Jacobs, the design, engineering, construction and technical services firm hired for the job, presented an overview of the project to council, but were challenged on more than a few fronts, but in particular when it came time to discuss off-ramps.
A similar presentation was made to Hawkesbury council recently; at that meeting, there were objections to proposed lane reductions on Highway 34. Those changes had been planned because expected traffic growth had never happened, said the Jacobs team, referring to the 1955 build of the overpass and traffic flow that may have moved to Highway 417. But because of objections, the lane reductions have been cancelled.
Council was told that County Road 17 will be closed for up to four weeks as part of the overpass replacement project, which includes replacement of a bridge over Hawkesbury Creek. The overpass has undergone several rounds of repairs, with the most recent work taking place in 2008.
County Road 34 will be open during most of the work, but will be closed in the southbound direction for three weekends.
An accelerated demolition process during the weekends will be used, said Matthew McFadden, project manager for Jacobs.
Once the bridges are demolished, superjacks will be used to push the pre-built superstructure into place, he said.
Considerable discussion took place about the off-ramp and how transport trucks would negotiate the off-ramp curves. Council was reassured that the design did meet geometric design standards.
Champlain Township Mayor Normand Riopel told the Jacobs representatives, which included a junior environmental planner (Stefani Jacobs) and a Jacobs transportation sales lead for Canada East, Douglas Raby, that the off-ramp situation was going to create a similar situation to what had been occurring at the Herb’s/Highway 34 intersection for years, in response to learning that the speed limit would be reduced to 80 kilometres per hour as part of the discussions about the off-ramp.
“You can bring it to 60 and they don’t care,” said Riopel.
The Jacobs representatives argued that the conditions would be superior to what exists at the present, with considerable sight distance (for trucks taking the off ramp from Country Road 17 to head south on County Road 34). There will be no through traffic at that location, only right-hand turns, they noted.
Using a drawing projected on a screen, the Jacobs representatives acknowledged that the drawings they brought to council were destined for the public consultation process and were not the technical design drawings.
During demolition and girder erection, traffic will be diverted along a temporary bypass involving County Road 4, Main Street (Hawkesbury) and Tupper Street. There will be advance notification, bilingual signs along the detour route and additional signage on Highway 417. There will be temporary modifications at the intersections and temporary traffic signals.
A second round of public consultation will take place — with the opportunity for people to post their comments online, the same as for round one — in April 2019.
The first round of public consultation included advertisements in two local newspapers (The Review was one of those), and letters sent to individuals by registered mail.
McFadden said that the detour has been estimated at nine minutes.
Vankleek Hill councillor Peter Barton asked if there was another example of this type of intersection and was told that a similar layout exists where Highway 16 and 401 meet, where ramp traffic must stop.
Jacobs representatives assured Champlain Township councillors that everything is built for certain standards and that some changes to the plan might take place during the consultation process.