Burlington Canal Lift Bridge

The Burlington Canal Lift Bridge is located on the western shore of Lake Ontario on a site rich in history. The bridge spans the Burlington Canal that was opened in 1826. Once a narrow cut, the canal now provides Burlington Bay (Hamilton Harbour) with navigable access to the Atlantic Ocean. The canal connected the Hamilton Harbour industrial region to international trade and commerce. It was among a series of waterway projects begun, 200 years ago, to provide navigation from Lake Erie to the Atlantic Ocean. Today the Burlington Canal remains a busy waterway and is vital to the area commerce.

There were five different moveable bridges located on this site since 1830. The present bridge was opened in 1962 and carried two lanes of vehicular traffic across the canal. This structure originally had tracks for the Hamilton — Northwestern railway which were removed in 1982 when the road way was widened to four lanes.

The bridge structure is a tower driven, vertical lift and moveable bridge. The lift span is 116 metres long, weighs 1,996 tons and has a vertical lift of 33.5 metres.

  • At full lift height, maximum clearance for marine traffic is approximately 36.5 metres during typical water level conditions.
  • When locked in its lowered position, a clearance of approximately 5 metres, during typical water level conditions, allows very small pleasure craft, kayaks and canoes to pass easily beneath the bridge.

A system originating in the towers contains machinery, sheaves and wire ropes, moves the lift span. There is one 150 horsepower drive motor in each tower to supply power to the machinery and one 150 horsepower motor in each tower to synchronize the drive motors.

The navigation season usually runs from late March to late December. During the winter shut down, the bridge staff overhaul the tower drive gear.

Since its installation, the bridge has been operated in excess of 166,380  times, allowing the passage of over 250,000 vessels. On a yearly basis, the bridge will operate approximately 4000 times allowing approximately 6500 vessels to pass through the canal; this includes more than 1000 cargo-carrying vessels.

The bridge lifts on-demand for all large vessels and on the hour and half hour for pleasure craft. In order to ensure safety, the bridge must be raised early since in the event of a failure, we need to provide the vessel time to turn since a fully loaded vessel can take in excess of a mile to stop.

Information resources 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 Media advisories webpage for more details.

Boaters can access updates about scheduled lifts through UVF/VHF Radio Channel #16.

Burlington Canal Lift Bridge drives, controls and overhead cables project

The drives and controls and overhead cables project

The Burlington Canal Lift Bridge is undergoing a four-year project to replace the drives and controls for the lifting mechanism and related works. The bridge’s controls, drives and associated electrical components have been in operation for over fifty years and have reached the end of their service life. The proactive replacement of these components will alleviate the risk of failure and emergency repair and improve the performance of the bridge.

The project objective is to replace the bridge’s outdated control systems, main drive motors and overhead cables. The project will also address other required modifications such as an upgrade of the bridge’s electrical and mechanical systems, along with structural works required to complete these tasks. The completed project will result in more efficient operations, increased safety and reduced energy use.

More information