Burlington Canal Lift Bridge

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About the bridge

The Burlington Canal Lift Bridge is located on the western shore of Lake Ontario on a site rich in history. A construction project is underway to replace the bridge deck.

History of the bridge

The bridge spans the Burlington Canal, which opened in 1826. The canal connected the Hamilton Harbour industrial region to international trade and commerce. It was built as part of a series of waterway projects dating back 200 years, with the goal of providing navigation from Lake Erie to the Atlantic Ocean. Today, the Burlington Canal remains a busy waterway and is vital to the area’s commerce.

Since 1830, there have been 5 different moveable bridges located at this site. The present bridge was opened in 1962. It carries 2 lanes of vehicular traffic across the canal. This structure originally had tracks for the Hamilton Northwestern Railway. They were removed in 1982 when the roadway was widened to 4 lanes.

Description of the bridge

This structure is a tower-driven, vertical lift and moveable bridge.

The lift span:

  • is 116 metres long
  • weighs 1,996 tonnes
  • has a vertical lift of 33.5 metres
  • has a maximum clearance for marine traffic of approximately 36.5 metres at full-lift height (during typical water-level conditions)
  • has a clearance of approximately 5 metres when locked in its lowered position (during typical water level conditions), which allows very small pleasure craft, kayaks and canoes to pass easily beneath the bridge

The towers system contains machinery, sheaves and wire ropes that raise the lift span.

Each tower has:

  • a 150-horsepower drive motor to supply power to the machinery
  • a 150-horsepower motor to synchronize the drive motors

Since its installation, the bridge has been operated in excess of 200,000 times, allowing the passage of over 400,000 vessels. On a yearly basis, the bridge operates approximately 4,000 times, allowing about 6,500 vessels to pass through the canal. This includes more than 1,000 cargo-carrying vessels.

Operations of the bridge

Navigation season

The bridge operates during the navigation season, which runs from mid-March to late December.

The bridge lifts on demand for all large vessels and lifts on the hour and half hour for pleasure craft.

In order to ensure safe passage of recreational and large commercial marine vessels, the bridge must be raised early to account for any unforeseen failure of the bridge while it is being raised or lowered. A fully loaded vessel can take in excess of 1.5 kilometres to turn or stop safely. Bridge staff require time to notify marine vessels and provide them with ample time to turn or stop.

During the navigation season, motorists, pedestrians and cyclists are required to stop to allow bridge staff sufficient time to lift the bridge. The duration of a lift will range from:

  • 10 to 15 minutes to allow passage of recreational vessels
  • 1.5 to 2 hours to allow passage of large commercial vessels

Winter shutdown

Annually, the bridge experiences a winter shutdown. This shutdown is typically from early January to mid-March. This allows bridge staff time to:

  • conduct annual maintenance
  • repair the bridge’s operating systems
  • deliver capital repair and rehabilitation projects to ensure the bridge remains operational and safe for the travelling public

Information for motorists and marine traffic

Motorists who have questions about current and upcoming closures or lane reductions on the Burlington Canal Lift Bridge can consult the latest media advisories or our Twitter account for updates.

Boaters can access updates about scheduled lifts through ultra high frequency (UHF) and very high frequency (VHF) radio channel 16.

Related link

Burlington Canal Lift Bridge: Bridge deck replacement project

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