University Drive Bridge will reopen to motorists on Friday, March 8 – just in time for the university to play host to its annual March Break Open House on March 9, Western officials announce today.
Since Oct. 18, the bridge has been closed to all but pedestrians and cyclists after an inspection showed deterioration in the bearings that help the bridge to flex under load in fluctuating temperatures.
Early February’s severe weather – including freezing rain, snow and extreme cold – slowed the pace of repairs and delayed the reopening by a week. Particularly during the freezing rain, work had to slow or even halt for a few days to ensure worker safety. Contractors have otherwise been working 10- and 12-hour days.
“All the materials are on site. It’s just the weather that has caused the delay,” said Elizabeth Krische, Associate Vice-President (Facilities Management).
While bearings on both ends of the bridge have been replaced, still to be completed is the removal of 590 rivets – each of them six centimetres long, and original to the 95-year-old bridge – so that the bridge can be jacked and the centre-span bearings replaced.
Cars, trucks, ambulances and transit and shuttle buses will resume using the bridge after five months of detours. However, a 12-tonne load limit will remain in place.
Upon re-opening, the bridge remains a shared roadway and vehicles will still not be permitted to pass bicycles anywhere on the bridge.
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University Drive Bridge chronology
November 1923. New bridge, crossing the Thames River at Western University, opens to traffic.
2002. Major repairs improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety. Heavy trucks barred from bridge.
2016. Engineering report recommends repairs, further load limits.
March 2016. Bridge closes for three days for necessary repairs.
October 2018. Engineering report notes damage to bearings that allow the bridge to flex under traffic load and temperature changes.
Oct. 18, 2018. Bridge closed to motorized traffic; pedestrians and cyclists still permitted.
November-December 2018. Detailed inspection takes place; contract awarded to repair bridge
Jan. 7, 2019. Repair work begins.
March 8, 2019. Bridge to reopen to vehicles in time for March Break Open House on March 9.