Barrie motorists and cyclists alike are happy to see an integral piece of city infrastructure up and running.
The long-awaited bridge — which began with environmental assessments back in 2013 — over Highway 400, connecting Harvie Road and Big Bay Point Road, opened to traffic and pedestrians on Thursday night.
Raj Singh says he couldn’t be happier.
For almost six years, he has lived on Thrushwood Drive off Harvie Road and east of Veterans Drive.
“That bridge project started about three years ago, so it’s been a while,” he tells BarrieToday while shooting some hoops in front of his home. “But we’re thrilled.
“Whenever you have to take the highway from Essa or Mapleview, you’re always hitting a lot of traffic,” Singh says.
“If I’m going from here to the other side of the 400, we’re looking at almost 15 minutes on the weekend. With this,” he says, gesturing to the direction of the nearby bridge, “I’m sure it will knock six minutes off.
“Realistically, it’s only 2.5 kilometres, so it’s all traffic backup. So we’re happy that’s going to go away.”
Singh says he doesn’t anticipate any more traffic on his side street from the now-expanded Harvie Road, which includes five lanes for vehicle traffic, two separate lanes for bicycles and sidewalks on either side for pedestrians.
“I don’t think our street is going to be busier. The only people who come on this street are people who live around here,” he says. “But it’s nice being connected to all the other roads.”
He’s got another two-wheeled reason to see the Harvie Road and Big Bay Point Road project up and running, or rolling along.
Singh has already cycled across the bridge on the buffered bike lanes.
“Day 1,” he says with a laugh. “Usually, it’s all construction and then I noticed the cars going through.
“I cycle, I go running, so that lane is important. I think there are a lot of cyclists like me in Barrie. It’s a safe lane designated for bikes and will help me explore other cycling areas of the city.”
Coun. Gary Harvey, who represents Ward 7, says the bridge opening is “huge” for the city, and not just Barrie's south end.
“This will allow residents, businesses and goods to be transported east to west across the city much faster than before,” he tells BarrieToday. “This will also alleviate much of the congestion on Mapleview Drive, which right now tends to bottleneck in the area of the 400.”
Another long-awaited south-end road project — hinted at by a set of traffic lights west of the new bridge — will also be appreciated by city drivers.
“The initial work for the north-end extension of Bryne Drive was approved by council a month or so ago, moving up the $18 million of infrastructure funding required to complete this,” Harvey says.
“This will also move forward the area just north of Harvie Road as a business commercial park area much sooner than originally planned,” the city councillor says, adding new infrastructure services in the area will open up commercial properties along Highway 400.
“That will be changing in the coming years, which will benefit everyone as it brings in more businesses, more jobs and more tax revenue to the city so we are not so reliant on the residential tax base," Harvey says.
And if watching a bridge being built is your bent, Barrie probably is the best place to be.
“The 400 projects are controlled by the MTO (Ministry of Transportation Ontario),” Harvey says. “However, at this time we have been advised that Essa Road is next, with construction beginning in spring 2022, then Dunlop in 2024 or 2025, and last is Bayfield in 2025 or 2026.”