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Updated: Thu, 31 Jul 2014 21:19:10 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Burlington Skyway crash: Toronto lanes closed after truck hits scaffolding



Traffice being rerouted around the Burlington Skyway Dave Ritchie, Special to CBC

Traffice being rerouted around the Burlington Skyway Dave Ritchie, Special to CBC

The Toronto-bound lanes of the Burlington Skyway will be closed for "some time," police say, after the bridge was damaged after a truck hit the superstructure Thursday afternoon.

Police have no estimate of how long the lanes will be closed, but Burlington Mayor Rick Goldring tweeted that the damage may mean the highway is closed for days. 

The damage has caused gridlock in and around Hamilton, with multiple reports on social media saying cars detouring away from the Skyway have blocked traffic on the Red Hill Valley Parkway, Eastport Drive, Cannon Street and Mud Road, as well as other city streets.

Concerns about the extent of the damage have also stopped shipping into and out of Hamilton harbour. An extended closure would affect holiday travellers for the upcoming Civic Holiday weekend and also traffic heading to Toronto for this weekend's Caribbean Carnival.

Police, fire and the Ministry of Transportation have all responded to the collision, which has closed all Toronto-bound lanes, said Ontario Provincial Police Const. Julia McCuaig. The driver received minor injuries.

The heavily travelled Skyway spans the western-most tip of Lake Ontario, connecting Burlington on the north side with Hamilton and the Niagara region. The lanes bound for the latter remain open. 

Traffic signals in Burlington have been changed to help improve the flow of traffic around the Skyway, the city said via Twitter. 

The police, meanwhile, are waiting for a structural engineer to assess the damage to the Skyway. OPP spokesman Kerry Schmidt, who was at the site Thursday, said a dump truck drove across the bridge with its bed raised, hitting the scaffolding and causing ironwork to break and bend on the bridge structure, which was undergoing scheduled maintenance. 

"This will be a significant closure," Schmidt said. "The superstructure above the deck is damaged."   

Motorists tried to warn driver

Witnesses described seeing the truck head up the bridge with its bed up while motorists tried to warn the driver by honking their horns, but to no avail. 

"He drove straight into the structure and all the scaffolding on top of the bridge," said Jay Bell of Huntsville, Ont. 

"The construction workers up there, they all started coming down the steps of the scaffolding really fast. I've never seen anyone move that fast on scaffolding before. It was just crazy. They jumped from the scaffolding onto the steel structure of the bridge." 

The driver did not slow down, though the honking appeared to warn the construction workers of the danger, said witness Robert Grimme. 

"The guy kept going, he was actually going faster," said Grimme. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing."

The resulting gridlock has marooned some of GO Transit's Route 12 Burlington-bound buses and detoured others. .

Anne Marie Aikins from GO Transit advised checking the agency's website for the latest information.  

"We are asking people to take the train instead if possible," she said. "Any buses that hadn't gotten on the highway yet can be detoured."

GO Transit estimates the delays could be up to an hour. It says for the rest of the evening, all bus and train connections will be made at its Aldershot station, rather than at its station in Burlington. 

Shipping affected

On the water below, the canal under the bridge has been closed as a precaution, said the Hamilton Port Authority.

"In the interest of safety, the canal is closed to shipping traffic pending [the ministry's] assessment of the damage to the Skyway bridge above." said Larissa Fenn, a spokeswoman for the authority. Three vessels are due to arrive in the harbour Thursday night, according to its website. It's unclear if any of the ore-carrying lakers will be able to enter the Hamilton port. 

Officers are still investigating how the collision happened, McCuaig said. Traffic is being redirected onto Lakeshore Road. The Fort Erie-bound lanes are open.

The police say that just after 3:30 p.m., they received a call from a dump truck driver that the truck had struck scaffolding. The dump truck bed appeared to be extended, McCuaig said, but it's not clear if the truck was part of the job site there. 

Workers in the area are safe, and emergency officials are trying to figure out how to get the vehicle out without damaging the scaffolding and structure further.

The province is in the midst of a $20-million construction project on the Skyway. Workers are on the second phase of applying anti-corrosive coating to the steel, which should be finished by fall 2016.

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