SKYWAY: So long traffic bottleneck

scotto

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The Beach Strip
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Posted with permission from the Hamilton Spectator

October 28, 2009
Stacey Escott
Special to The Hamilton Spectator
(Oct 28, 2009)
When construction first began on the iconic Skyway bridge, it was considered the largest ongoing steel construction job in Canada and possibly North America, second only to the Golden Gate Bridge.

It would ease one of Canada's biggest traffic nightmares. But it would also highlight Hamilton's darker, grittier side from its panoramic viewpoint.

It was expected to handle a maximum of 50,000 vehicles per day. It also became Ontario's first toll bridge to help ease the costs of construction, but the controversial tolls were only bringing in half the money expected. Heavy trucks were bypassing the Skyway and travelling along the Beach Strip to avoid paying. Automatic toll machines were eventually introduced and fees went up and down.

In 1973, the toll collection would end altogether. The Skyway experienced its first closure in 1972 due to dangerous winds. For 12 hours, Ontario Provincial Police directed vehicles in one of the worst traffic jams they had ever seen.

Traffic doubled in volume since its opening, and people realized how vital the bridge had become. The Skyway was only 14 years old when the need to "twin" the bridge was no longer an option. It had to be done. There were too many cars. Lead emissions from cars on the Skyway were the highest in Ontario.

There was also talk of demolishing the approximately $19-million giant structure completely in favour of a multilane tunnel. The next decade would see debate over twins, tunnels and name changes. Numerous closures of the Skyway would continue to anger motorists and stall traffic for hours. There were suicide attempts, accidents, skydivers and even a dare, as jumpers continued to make headlines.

The new Burlington Bay James N. Allan Skyway finally had a functioning twin in 1985. At a cost of almost $42 million, it was the largest financial undertaking in the history of the Ministry of Transportation (MTO). The first accident would occur just 14 minutes after its official debut when two officials collided during opening ceremonies.

In 1986, the MTO installed a high-tech freeway traffic management system to reduce traffic congestion during construction and to help manage heavy traffic volume. The Skyway has five closed-circuit television cameras and vehicle detector stations spaced 500 metres apart. The system alerts the Traffic Operations Centre whenever a problem occurs.

But still, the traffic keeps growing. In the early '90s, the Skyway averaged 92,000 vehicles a day, and it has increased every year since. In 2006, (the most recent year the MTO has on record), the average was 136,500. With traffic comes collisions, and as one increases, so does the other.

In 1998, there were 34 reported collisions compared to 84 in 2007. In general maintenance alone, not including major projects, the MTO budgets about $75,000 a year.

The Skyway has always been the subject of heated debate, and can still be the bane of many motorists' daily commutes. But could it have been any other way? The debate continues.
 

scotto

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TODAY IN HISTORY: Crowds Stream Over Skyway

SKYWAY: So long traffic bottleneck
October 28, 2009
The Hamilton Spectator

With crowds on hand to cross the arrow-straightness of the bridge, and its pale green lacework of steel gleaming paintbox bright in the fall sunshine, Premier Frost today officially opened the new, $19,000,000 four-lane Skyway over the Burlington Canal.

And afterward, he explained that the huge project, together with three other proposed skyways, over the Welland Canal at St. Catharines, Port Colborne and Welland, international bridges and the Rainy River Causeway, represented a $100,000,000 investment.

During his brief ribbon-cutting speech -- "I am heeding the advice given me that the top of this great structure is not a good place to make a speech" -- Mr. Frost referred to the road and rail lift bridge which Ottawa is to finance, and removal of the centre pier in the canal.

"This will place Hamilton first in a front position in harbor facilities on the Great Lakes system."

He added: "What we are doing here today is only part of a vast program which is all in addition to our present highway plan to provide for the most modern over-passes over our canals and international boundaries."

Traffic conditions across Hamilton Beach, said the Premier, had been the subject of investigation and postponement for the last 25 years.

Reprinted from The Hamilton Spectator, Oct. 30, 1958

Hamilton Spectator Photo
 

scotto

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In the last Spec photo (post above) you will see that small maintenance buiding on the side of the Skyway. That building connects to a access door at the bottom of the pillar. Inside there is a man lift that many years ago, transported MTO staff to the top of the Skyway. I was in there about year ago and took a few pictures. I believe the lift is no longer to today's standards as safe type of elevator.
 

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scotto

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Our Skyway is a tale of tolls, trolls and twins

Paul Wilson
The Hamilton Spectator
(Oct 29, 2008)
On a cold but sunny day 50 years ago, a crowd gathered on a windy span high over the Beach Strip and the premier of Ontario declared the Burlington Bay Skyway officially open.

Such a bridge had been talked about for decades, so all were jubilant that it had finally come to pass.

But maybe that was actually a dark day for Hamilton.

From Oct. 30, 1958, onward, millions have been awed by the smoky, sooty, fiery panorama of this city.

"How can anyone live down there?" the passersby wonder. If they entered the city at the other end of the harbour, they would understand. They would move here.

Long ago, there was talk of a tunnel instead of a bridge, which would have changed everything. Didn't happen.

Instead they spent nearly $20 million on the Skyway, three kilometres long on 76 piers. It was the longest bridge in Canada when it opened.

Hamilton never seemed to worry about the bird's-eye view such a bridge would bring. But the city did worry about the name.

The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce petitioned Queen's Park, insisting that the water out there wasn't Burlington Bay anymore. It was Hamilton Harbour and the name of the bridge should reflect that.

That went nowhere.

The Skyway was built to address Canada's worst bottleneck. Traffic would back up for miles on the Beach Strip whenever the bascule bridge swung out of the way for a lake boat on the canal.

In April 1952, a long sand carrier called the W.E. Fitzgerald did motorists a favour and knocked the little bridge into the water. The Skyway -- debated since the QEW came by in 1933 -- was suddenly on the front burner.

It opened with two lanes in each direction capable of handling 50,000 vehicles a day. But you couldn't just sail across. After a 10-day grace period for rubberneckers when the bridge opened, the Skyway became Ontario's first toll bridge: 15 cents cash or 20 commuter tokens for $1.

The tolls annoyed motorists, and the takers of the tolls -- mostly war vets -- said it was no picnic out there. The steady stench of dead fish and factory fumes. The car and truck exhaust that curled up into their booths.

And the sadistic drivers who heated nickels, dimes and tokens in their car cigarette lighters and dropped the red hot currency into the toll collector's hand.

The Skyway went toll-free at the end of 1973. By then the route was clogged again. Ten years later, work began on twinning the bridge. The province said it was changing the name of the Skyway to honour a former Conservative transportation minister.

That pleased no one around here, and the compromise was the Burlington Bay James N. Allan Skyway. Heard anybody call it that lately?

The new twin cost twice as much as the old span. Without the pale-green steel arch, it offered none of the original's charm.

Now there are 10 lanes up there, two for emergency travel. All in all, a lot of bridge just to let 700 freighters a year steam into Hamilton Harbour.

People live in the shadow of the Skyway.

"I tell people, 'I'm a troll, I live under the bridge,'" says Norman Law, who moved into a grand 1890s cottage on the Beach Strip's bayside 35 years ago.

He has been told his place was once the summer palace of Tuckett the tobacco king.

Could be, because before it turned toxic, the bay was where people wanted to be. The boathouse is still in place, but now the bay's edge is a long way off, thanks to landfill that went in for Skyways I and II.

Law is near the bridge's approach, so the roar is considerable. He has triple-glazed his windows, made his walls double-thick.

"I can't sit in my back yard." It's storage only for treasures that include the carcass of a '57 Greyhound bus.

We move north along the Strip to the last house on the bay side before the canal.

It's just a few years old, and Kevin and Amanda White, four kids, two cats and two dogs live here.

From the front window of their raised living room, they watch the sun come up over the lake. From the back, they see that sun go down over the harbour.

The Skyway has climbed to six storeys here, so some of the roar is sent to the heavens.

The Whites don't try to ignore the big bridge. They embrace it. Out in their back yard, there's a big deck, a pool and a hot tub.

They relax here under a sky as big as the Prairies -- a sky with a towering sculpture that the Whites share with 50 million motorists a year.

StreetBeat appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

pwilson@thespec.com

905-526-3391
 

scotto

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I came by an old token used by the Province for the tolls when using the Skyway Bridge, I did try to clean it up a bit but this is the best I could get it. And it is in rough shape.






Adding to this post, this is an ID badge for staff on the first bridge;
 
Nov 26, 2006
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Brantford
#8
Your right and your right LOL I have to use the center lane not too fond of tall bridges.

I'm at Salerno Dairy now over on Parkdale so I drive to Hamilton every day (well the ones I work::) ) and over the bridge to do the deliveries, I'd use eastport but that darn liftbridge LOL
 

scotto

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Feb 15, 2004
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The Beach Strip
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Your right and your right LOL I have to use the center lane not too fond of tall bridges.

I'm at Salerno Dairy now over on Parkdale so I drive to Hamilton every day (well the ones I work::) ) and over the bridge to do the deliveries, I'd use eastport but that darn liftbridge LOL
Yes stay away from that darn Liftbridge, it's always up.
I never did hear back from when you were going for that job, good for you. I buy a lot of cheese from there, the stuff that comes in the big bags and is not cheap.
 
Nov 26, 2006
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Brantford
#10
I have only been there 3 months (didnt make the cut the 1st time) I cant belive all the different stuff, I still dont know the different product, cant tell the difference between ricotta and old bra LOL
 

Sharla1

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#11
I forgot when they stopped using the tokens?

I had to laugh at my father when they still had the baskets to throw it into. He would say oh s--t I missed again. LOL
 

Sharla1

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Oct 15, 2009
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#13
I can't believe there is no traffic either. And that pic was taken in the daytime. I could see that at night time in those days.
 
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