In a matter of days, the province will shut down the Highway 40/401 interchange to begin the next phase of improvements.
According to Ministry of Transportation officials, the closure is necessary to upgrade existing infrastructure to support the long-term transportation needs at the intersection. The improvements are to enhance safety, accommodate the next phase in heavy trucking – the long combination vehicle – and to improve access from the 401 to the municipality.
The long combination vehicles are essentially two trailers connected and pulled in tandem by one heavy truck.
A typical LCV is up to 40 metres long and replaces two 23-metre tractor-trailers.
According to the MTO, the Canada Safety Council reports that LCVs are involved in at least 40 per cent fewer collisions than regular tractor-trailers.
The highway project involves erecting three new bridges over Hwy. 401. Pinehurst Line has also been realigned – rerouted at the west end to come out on Boundary Line at Communications Road, and match up with Creek Road to the west.
As well, about 10 kilometres of the eastbound lanes of the 401, essentially between Kent Bridge Road and Bloomfield Road, will also be improved.
While Hwy 40 will be closed from April 18 until late this year, Hwy 401 will also be shut down for this project, albeit very briefly.
MTO officials say the highway will be closed in both directions between 8 p.m. April 29 and 10 a.m. April 30. Detours in both directions will bring traffic north at Bloomfield Road and Kent Bridge Road, utilizing Park Avenue in Chatham, Hwy 40 and Longwoods Road east of Chatham.
While Hwy. 40 is closed at the 401, signed detour routes will have westbound traffic coming off at Bloomfield Road to head into Chatham-Kent, while eastbound traffic will make use of the Kent Bridge Road exit.
Adam Sullo, Chatham-Kent’s director of engineering for the municipality, said the project is the MTO’s, but the municipality has been involved in the review process.
One group of heavy users of the Hwy. 401/Hwy. 40 exchange that will be seriously impacted by the closure is the garbage carriers from the Greater Toronto Area that deliver industrial and institutional waste to the Ridge Landfill site. These trucks would normally just turn south onto Hwy. 40 and head down to Drury Line.
During the closure, Sullo said the trash haulers will come off Hwy. 401 at Bloomfield Road, head south and jog at 8th Line, continue south on Bloomfield to Middle Line, jog southeast, and turn onto Drury Line.
The route has been upgraded, the cost of which was paid for by the province, he added.
Sullo said the rerouting of Pinehurst was necessary because of the massive changes at the 40/401 interchange.
“They had to move Pinehurst because the new grades will be almost over top of the old intersection,” he said.
Sight lines, or lack thereof, have long been a safety concern at the 40/401 interchange. The extended grades and altered ramping should alleviate that problem.
Sullo is cautiously optimistic the closure of Hwy. 40 at the 401 is only until late this year, despite the fact construction on the project is expected to continue into spring of 2018.
“The MTO is very particular about getting things done on time,” he said.