Grand Bend bottleneck to slow beach traffic through Canada Day

It is likely the last thing pandemic exhausted beachgoers want to hear — construction will impact their ride to Grand Bend beach this coming Victoria Day weekend and beyond.

And it is going to get worse before it gets better.

A major construction project to widen Highway 21 at the entrance to the beach strip is now at its height. The work is causing more than typical delays, along with dust and disruption for motorists, pedestrians and businesses alike.

Some beachgoers, including Jackson Christensen, of Ilderton, Ont. didn’t even try to navigate the project. He parked his car well off the strip and walked the half-kilometre down to the beach.

“I didn’t want to get caught up in it,” he told CTV News.

Avoiding construction is one option if you don’t mind a walk. But if you do, be prepared to wait.

“This is going to be ongoing for a while,” Lambton Shores Mayor Bill Weber admitted.

While the Victoria Day weekend was always impacted, Weber says the first phase of construction will now stretch until Canada Day weekend.

Meanwhile on Thursday morning, a line of vehicles — more than 20 to 30 deep at times — stretched along Highway 21 waiting to get through.

But in the spirit of improving access, Weber says all construction will stop on Victoria Day weekend. He hopes the effort will prevent lines from stretching a hundred cars deep.

Construction will also halt in July and August before picking up again in September. Then come next year, the expected payoff, which includes four lanes of traffic and a turn lane on Highway 21.

Weber says the new look will dramatically reduce beach congestion.

“We want to alleviate the traffic and make improvements on the sidewalks for pedestrians,” he said.

Still, it will be 2024 before all the pain is complete, as a bridge near the intersection still needs to be replaced.

After two years of COVID-19, the entire project is an additional strain on businesses located on the construction route and the strip.

Melissa Potofsky owns a clothing store near the water. She expects a small hit but is hopeful the end of construction will bring a windfall for businesses.

“I think construction is disruptive no matter where. But, let’s try to be patient because it has to be done,” she said.

Carrying his beach chair and cooler to the lake, Christensen agreed patience is a virtue that 2022 beachgoers will have to cherish.

“If people want to come, they’re going to come and construction won’t hold them back. We just have to pay for it in the short term," he said.

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