The biggest traffic jam ever in Burlington? Many swear by it


Published September 20, 2023 at 3:38 pm

Hamilton Burlington traffic fire congestion Niagara
The aftermath of the truck fire on the Burlington Skyway. All photos from the Ontario Provincial Police.

Was that Burlington’s biggest traffic jam ever?

By many accounts, the answer appears to be yes.

The day started off typically enough yesterday (Sept. 19) with heavy rush hour traffic tapering off as the morning unfolded.

Then, just after 10 a.m. a minor vehicle collision in the Toronto-bound lanes near the Burlington Skyway slowed traffic in that direction. But the worst was yet to come.

At 10:30 a.m., this time in the Niagara-bound lanes, a tractor-trailer struck a cement barrier during the approach to the bridge. The truck burst into flames, fuel spilled, and a load of fibreglass material was dumped on the road.

Emergency crews were quick to arrive on the scene. All lanes in both directions were closed, but the traffic chaos had just begun.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” declared Bertrand Leclair via Facebook. “Everything just came to a halt. You just couldn’t move along the bridge. We remained in place for hours. I could see the smoke billowing. There was nothing I could do.”

While thousands of vehicles were stuck on the Skyway, those who managed to get off found it difficult to maneuver through large sections of Hamilton and Burlington as like-minded drivers tried to find a way around the accident scene.

It was gridlock at its worst.

According to the OPP, the driver of the tractor-trailer was injured and taken to hospital. His status is unknown.

Crews that arrived on the scene managed to put out the flames but then the clean-up began to clear the stretch of the QEW of the fuel and debris. That lasted several hours.

Aubrey Pinto, who says he has lived in Hamilton for all of his 79 years, claimed he has never seen traffic come to a standstill the way it did yesterday.

“You just couldn’t move. Everybody was stuck. It didn’t matter which way you turned, what shortcut you knew there was traffic,” Pinto said. “I’ve seen traffic jams before but not like this. It just goes to show you how much people rely on the Skyway and what it means when it’s closed.”

Complicating matters in the vicinity is the ongoing construction on the canal lift bridge that transports motorists along Eastport Drive. Lanes on that bridge have been reduced to one.

While many drivers who were caught in the traffic complained of three-hour delays, one said it took her eight hours to complete the voyage from Burlington to Stoney Creek.

Eight hours?

“I just couldn’t move,” said Cheryl Hodgekins. “It didn’t matter which way I turned. North Shore Blvd. Plains Road. Fairview, Lakeshore, New, Guelph Line. Burlington was at a standstill.”

Those who use public transport said they felt like they had been held hostage as they couldn’t do much but stay on the bus and wait it out.

One bus rider, Ethan Pasquale, said after his usual 45-minute ride to work was taking three hours, he got off and walked the rest of the way.

While people were still stuck in traffic well into nightfall, the roads were mostly useable by 11 p.m.

The OPP said all lanes were eventually opened at 5 a.m. this morning.


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