Opening of Third Street Bridge off the rails again

Road closed sign in front of the Third Street Bridge in Chatham. July 19, 2022. (Photo by Paul Pedro)

The opening of the Third Street Bridge in downtown Chatham has been delayed for a third time.

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent said this time, the re-opening is being pushed back because pedestrian safety railings have not arrived on site yet.

The ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday marking the completion of the Third Street Bridge has been postponed because of the delay. However, Bridgerama organizer Clair Culliford told CK News Today Tuesday morning that the event will still go ahead as planned. Bridgerama will begin Saturday at 11 a.m. and will feature entertainment, sales, arts and crafts, and stories through to 7 p.m.

The president of Toronto Zenith Contracting Limited, the project’s contractor, said the railings, which are one of the last remaining elements of the project, have not been finished by the firm that was contracted to fabricate them. He said his company is still investigating the issue and he is not willing to guarantee a new completion date until more information is available, adding he is extremely disappointed and apologizes to the citizens of Chatham-Kent.

The railings in question will contain the new LED light strips that will shine onto the sidewalks and without them the bridge cannot accommodate the public due to safety concerns as the Ministry of Labour will continue to consider the bridge as an active construction site.

Chris Thibert, Chatham-Kent’s Director of Engineering, said the contractor wasn’t made aware of any issue with the railings until the delivery dates were not being met. Thibert also said penalties associated with the non-completion of the project will begin this Friday.

“The railings were supposed to be delivered to the site early last week at the latest and installed just in time for this event this Friday. They were committed to working diligently to get this done on time and open the bridge,” Thibert said. “It is unfortunate that Toronto Zenith was let down in this fashion, but we have a responsibility to Chatham-Kent taxpayers to ensure that contracts are fulfilled.”

Mayor Darrin Canniff said he is deeply disappointed that the ribbon-cutting ceremony is delayed, but urged citizens to still attend the Saturday Bridgerama celebration being organized by the Historic Chatham Downtown BIA.

“Through supply chain issues caused by COVID, through unexpected labour disruptions and other issues, the project has continued. We are going to have a beautiful bridge that will last decades. I’m sorry we have to wait a while to have it completed, but we don’t live in a perfect world,” said Canniff. “The organizers [of Bridgerama] have put a lot of work into the event and it will be well worth the visit. There is a lot to see downtown.”