Underpass work to disrupt traffic flow

FORT FRANCES—With all of the funding now in place, the reconstruction of the Portage Avenue underpass is poised to begin next month.
And Operations and Facilities manager Doug Brown noted the 22-week project will mean some changes to traffic flow in that part of town.
“We’re going to treat it like a bridge job, where there’s always one lane open,” he explained, adding at no time should residents be forced to take alternate north-south routes (such as McIrvine Road or the emergency railroad crossing at Victoria Avenue).
“There’s going to be some detours,” he said. “Everything will be funnelled up to Second Street or Sixth Street. They won’t be able to turn at Fifth or Third for the duration of the 22-week project.”
Brown will attend a pre-construction meeting with the contractor on April 19, after which time he will take out ads in the newspaper to clearly explain to the public how the altered traffic flow will work, as well as give firm dates as to when the work will begin and end.
He’ll also have to inform the ambulance, fire department, police, and school board as to how it will affect their routes.
But while the project will mean inconvenience to some in the short-term, Brown stressed the job must get done.
“It’s long overdue. It’s reached its life cycle. They started the design in 1999 and what year is it now?” he remarked. “I’ll be happy when it’s done. I think most people will be.”
Work is expected to commence the first or second week of May and be completed around mid-November.
“We’ve got to wait for the frost is out of the ground,” Brown lamented. “It’s supposed to start warming up on the weekend, but then get cold again.
“That doesn’t really help get the frost out of the ground.”
Once underway, the work will be done in two phases—the west side first, then the east side.
It will consist of replacing 180 metres of concrete from Third Street East to Fifth Street East and putting in new retaining walls.
“The sidewalk on the east side is being removed. We’re widening it and deepening it so that large trucks can get through there,” noted Brown.
“The west side is going to be widened so that the town can get a sidewalk machine through it. Right now, it’s too narrow.”
The work also will include modifications to the railway abutment structures, a new railing on the west sidewalk, putting up new chain link fences, and upgrading to the storm sewer system (pump house and piping).
The existing roadway also will be reinforced and modified.
JTJ Contracting Ltd. Inc. of Emo will be handling the job, with Hatch Energy providing contractor administration and construction inspection services.
Town council awarded these tenders back in January.
The $2.1 million project is being partially funded by a $1.06 million grant through the provincial Rural Infrastructure Investment Initiative, with the balance being financed through a “Move Ontario” grant of $883,409 and $56,591 from reserve funds.