Work to replace Hwy. 401 bridges in Kitchener, Ont. to start this spring
By Leah Gerber, Local Journalism Initiative ReporterBridges Roads
KITCHENER—Get ready for more major Highway 401 construction: the bridges crossing the Grand River in Kitchener are about to be replaced.
Work will start this spring and is scheduled to finish in spring 2025, according to Jacob Ginger, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation.
Both of the bridges crossing the Grand River will be replaced to widen the highway from six lanes to ten lanes total in that section.
Ramp closures and lane restrictions will be needed to complete the work, but in general two lanes of traffic will be maintained in both directions on the 401, says Ginger.
Work to replace the bridges will be done in three stages beginning with the westbound lanes.
While the bridges are being replaced, work will also be done on the King Street overpass and on the King Street interchange ramp.
This will involve widening the 401 in certain areas to stage a westbound speed change lane from King Street to Homer Watson Boulevard. Pavement and storm sewers will be reconstructed, and lighting improved.
The Ministry of Transportation has completed the detailed design of the project and is now finding a contractor.
This portion of the Grand River is home to multiple species at risk including one mussel species and two fish species, according to Gary Wheeler, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks.
The Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks has given the Ministry of Transportation a permit to complete work in the area that allows the ministry to capture, collect, transport, harm or kill the species at risk, as well as damage habitat.
To minimize the impact of the project, the ministry is required to choose a bridge design with minimal in-water components, complete the in-water aspects of the project outside of the species’ spawning season, find and relocate individuals of the species before construction begins in the water, among others requirements.
“No direct impacts such as killing or harming individual members of the Species are expected to occur given the proposed mitigation measures and capture/handling and relocation protocols,” Wheeler says.
“However, individual members of the species may be incidentally harmed or killed and, therefore, the permit authorizes accidental harm or mortality.”
Some habitat destruction is expected because the project will use in-water rock-based causeways and because of staging equipment on the banks of the river, Wheeler says. He says these areas will be rehabilitated after the project is finished.
The bridges cross the Grand River about four or five kilometres downstream from the Kitchener wastewater treatment plant. This is within the section of the river researchers dubbed the `Dead Zone’ where mussel species were found to be completely missing, most likely because of high nutrient levels coming from the plant.
Since the plant received upgrades that greatly improved the river’s water quality more than seven years ago, area researchers have been monitoring the dead zone to see if mussel species make a comeback.
Source: WATERLOO REGION RECORD
Leah Gerber’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. The funding allows her to report on stories about the Grand River Watershed.