Bicyclists and pedestrians crossing the Peace Bridge can catch a breath over the next year: Shuttle vans soon will start ferrying them between the United States and Canada.
The south sidewalk of the bridge, facing Lake Erie, will be torn up beginning in mid-June as part of the $100 million rehabilitation of the international span. So until approximately May 15, 2018, those walking and biking across the bridge will be unable to cross in the normal manner. They number about 30,000 people annually.
"The plan is to remove the south sidewalk to rehabilitate the steel beneath,” said Thomas A. Boyle, the Peace Bridge Authority’s chief operating officer. “Once you take out just one section, the sidewalk is done.”
As a result, the authority plans to operate shuttle trucks or vans on a regular basis to carry non-vehicular travelers across the bridge. Details have not yet been worked out, Boyle said, but authority officials do not anticipate a major impediment for those crossing on bicycle or foot.
General Manager Ron Rienas added that the shuttle probably will operate based on signs posted at either end of the bridge providing cyclists and pedestrians a number to dispatch a van.
“The end result will be much more conducive to pedestrians and cyclists,” Rienas said.
Boyle said the shuttle method was used about a decade ago during sidewalk replacement work.
Crews are currently working on the north lane of the bridge, but that side -- facing the Niagara River -- is not used for pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
When completed in 2019, Boyle noted, the reconstructed bridge will feature a new walkway on the south side expanded from less than 5 feet to 8 feet. A barrier will also separate the new sidewalk from vehicular lanes, while a viewing platform overlooking Lake Erie at the exact border line also is planned.