Under the Rainbow Bridge


On Sunday, Erin and I took the kids to an indoor waterpark/hotel in Niagara Falls. The kids had been clamouring for such a trip ever since we took them to the Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky, Ohio. We didn’t go to the Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls, as that was way overpriced. Instead, the Americana Resort and Indoor Waterpark offered a more reasonable rate (thanks to Living Social) and a decent waterpark experience. The kids were pleased.

We also managed to step outside the hotel a few times, and even travelled into Niagara Falls to check out one of their non-Falls attractions. We paid another visit to the Bird Kingdom aviary near the Rainbow Bridge, and gave the kids a good (albeit expensive) time. Then we decided to go for dinner. There was about an hour left on the parking meter, so we considered walking. The journey took us along River Road, underneath the Rainbow Bridge connecting Canada to the United States.

I’ve been across the Rainbow Bridge a number of times, I’ve never been under it. And I was surprised to discover that an attempt had been made to spark pedestrian traffic beneath the bridge. We came upon a well-lit mezzanine and a series of storefronts, tucked away beneath the stone and concrete and deafening traffic noise.

And the place had been almost completely and utterly abandoned. With the exception of the corporate offices of the Rainbow Bridge itself (sternly locked from the public), and pedestrian access to the United States (we weren’t going to try that without our passports), only one store was open — a combination hotdog stand, internet cafe that also sold tickets to the helicopter ride. And it was on the outside of the bridge. We encountered few pedestrians inside and those we did meet were walking quickly, hoping to get out from the loud and unpleasant environment they’d found themselves in.

Knowing that Clifton Hill was nearby and yet uncertain how to get there by foot, we beat a hasty retreat back to the car and drove away. The thing is, without the bridge, the restaurants of Niagara Falls would likely have been less than a five minute walk away. But it was five minutes more than I wanted to spend in that place.

The Rainbow Bridge has done a number of nasty things to the road network in Niagara Falls. Just finding the Bird Kingdom was a trek, navigating dead ends and detours to get around the line to the duty free shops. Of course, access to the bridge itself, and the casinos beside it, was dead easy… if you were driving.

But this tells me that anybody who wants to beautify Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway rather than tear it down will have their work cut out for them. The plans of cafes and boardwalks and strategically placed lighting displays may look good on paper, but in practise, you still have to contend with the noise and the car exhaust, and that sensory onslaught is just too much for most pedestrians to bear.

More photos here.

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