A section of Sandwich Street in Windsor's west end is set to be totally closed to traffic for almost two months — much to the dismay of community leaders, business owners, and residents.
Meant to begin Sept. 5, the eight-week closure is being considered by the Windsor Detroit Bridge Authority as part of the Sandwich Street Reconstruction and Enhancement Project that's accompanying construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge.
But Ward 2 Coun. Fabio Costante said the WDBA's previous discussions with the community on the project described leaving a lane open and maintaining access for residential driveways and business properties.
"Never were we told that the road would be closed entirely," Costante said at a news conference on Tuesday. "I find this completely unacceptable."
The affected section of Sandwich Street — stretching about 500 metres from Chappell Avenue to the Ojibway Parkway — will force traffic onto Prince Road.
Windsor's Ward 2 Coun. Fabio Costante addresses media at a news conference on Prince Road on Aug. 22, 2023. Sandwich Towne advocate Mary Ann Cuderman (left) and Windsor West MP Brian Masse (right) look on. (Jacob Barker)
Costante said that could mean 15,000 commuters from LaSalle and Amherstburg will be detoured every day, along with more than 1,000 transport trucks carrying crushed stone and other aggregates.
"(Prince Road) is a street that's already mired in traffic and congestion and speeding issues," Costante said.
Tara Carson, director of communications for the WDBA, said Bridging North America was not required to undertake a traffic study for the project.
"This proposed approach — with a full closure — is different than originally considered as a result of consultation with the road authority," Carson stated. "We are further reviewing the proposed approach based on community feedback."
Carson noted that the closure "does not extend the entire length of Sandwich Street," and said the WDBA "understands the importance of mitigating the impacts of construction to the greatest extent possible."
Costante said he learned of the proposal only about a week and half ago. An emergency meeting of the Sandwich Towne BIA was held, where members also expressed shock at the closure.
"The residents on Prince Road and abutting neighbourhoods, affected school boards, the hospital — All affected parties in this proposal have not been consulted," Costante said.
"We're here today to alert the community — because, frankly, the community has not been consulted about what's about to transpire."
Costante noted that September is the start of the school year. "The worst possible time imaginable for a road construction project like this."
Street name signs where Sandwich Street meets Chappell Avenue in Windsor's west end. Photographed Aug. 22, 2023. (Jacob Barker)
West Windsor MP Brian Masse, who joined Costante at the news conference, said the plan also caught him by surprise.
He criticized the WDBA's website as "duplicitous," pointing to a section that said Sandwich Street would remain open to traffic during construction with only "temporary lane closures."
Masse has sent a letter about the matter to the new federal minister of infrastructure, Sean Fraser.
"We expect some accountability to this," Masse said. "Why the heck are they not even talking about... community benefits for this neighbourhood?"
Masse said he feels like the community was only included in consultations "until it wasn't convenient."
"Somebody made a decision somewhere to keep this quiet."
The exterior of Rock Bottom Bar & Grill - one of many businesses on Sandwich Street in Windsor's west end. Photographed Aug. 22, 2023. (Jacob Barker)
Nicole Sekela, owner of Rock Bottom Bar & Grill and Sandwich Brewing Co., fears her businesses will be severely affected by the closure — as they were during the street shutdowns caused by the Ambassador Bridge blockade in February 2022.
"I can only imagine what this is going to do," Sekela said. "These businesses run on people visiting, walking into them... We need feet on the sidewalks, people driving their cars to get to us."
Vehicle traffic on the section of Sandwich Street planned for eight weeks of closure due to reconstruction. Photographed Aug. 22, 2023. (Jacob Barker)
Longtime community advocate and Sandwich Towne BIA chair Mary Ann Cuderman compared the community's current relationship with the WDBA to "running into a brick wall."
"To have this thrown at us is unbelievable. I wish maybe they would take the dictionary, look up the word 'consult,' and see what it means... This is wrong, and it has to be corrected."
Construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge is visible from Sandwich Street in Windsor's west end. Photographed Aug. 22, 2023. (Jacob Barker)
Masse noted that the Sandwich Street Reconstruction and Enhancement Project is expected to take two years to complete. "There'll be another year that we have to endure this."
"That's why we're after a high degree of accountability on this. If we are going to (have) this forced down on throats, then there has to be the proper oversight, active management, and learned practices so that we don't suffer through two summers of this."
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