BROCKTON – Council has decided that two lanes are better than one, when it comes to safety of the Riversdale bridge.
The last time the 37-metre-long, single lane bridge was discussed, council decided it should be replaced. Without the bridge, closing Highway 9, not an unusual occurrence in winter weather, or a motor vehicle collision, again, not an unusual occurrence, would effectively cut off the Riversdale community.
The bridge had been recommended for replacement since 2014. The bridge was closed due to concerns about its safety.
GM BluePlan offered council a number of options including removing and not replacing the bridge (the recommended option), or replacing it with a one- or two-lane bridge.
The decision of whether the new bridge should be one or two lanes was left to a future meeting. The matter was brought back to council on March 23 in order to close out the environmental assessment process.
Once the notice of project completion is advertised, there’s a 30-day review period. After that, staff can work with GM BluePlan to prepare tender documents, with construction to begin after a tender winner is determined and necessary permits and approvals are in place.
GM BluePlan’s preference is for a two-lane bridge, for a number of reasons including accommodating agricultural traffic and emergency services, use as a detour and alternate winter route, as well as maintenance.
Although the bridge that’s being replaced is only one lane, and has served the community well for decades, there were some good arguments made by council in favour of two lanes.
Coun. Kym Hutcheon asked if a two-lane bridge would increase the chances of getting provincial funding to assist with costs.
Gregg Furtney, director of operations, said it would, if such funding were available. At the moment it’s not.
“We want the bridge,” said Coun. Steve Adams, adding that the cost difference between one and two lanes of half a million dollars is a factor to be considered, but having a bridge is the priority. He agreed that two lanes would probably be safer, but said he wished the extra cost wasn’t so much.
The report by GM BluePlan noted that a two-lane bridge costs 15 per cent to 25 per cent more than one lane. Considering the life expectancy of the structure would be 75 years, the report deemed the additional cost “relatively minimal.”
The possibility of traffic being rerouted from Highway 9 across the bridge had been a strong argument for replacing the structure, and Coun. Tim Elphick said a two-lane bridge would make that easier. The road on both sides of the bridge has very sharp turns.
Furtney added the Ontario Ministry of Transport would prefer a two-lane bridge.
Coun. Dean Leifso said he would have been happy with a one-lane bridge, but “if we do it, we should do it right.” He, too, made note of the sharp right turns and said, “The more I talk about it, the more I prefer two lanes.”
Council also wondered if the decision to go with two lanes is final. Coun. Kym Hutcheon asked Furtney, “If the environmental assessment shows the two lanes would cost too much, can we go back (to a one-lane bridge)?”
Furtney said, “We can go back if we need to.”
Coun. James Lang agreed with the rest of council, saying, “One lane is OK, but if Highway 9 is closed, I’d be more comfortable with two lanes.”
The report included a cost comparison for a one- and two-lane bridge of cast-in place concrete, prefabricated steel or prefabricated timber. Estimated cost for a one-lane structure would be, respectively, $1,642,600, $1,652,800 and $1,660,200; for a two-lane, $2,120,900 for cast-in-place concrete, and $2,423,900 for prefabricated timber. A two-lane prefabricated steel structure is not an option.
The actual cost will not be known until after the tendering process.
Following the bridge closure, the Riversdale community made a well-researched plea for replacement, noting it provides the only alternate access to the community if Highway 9 is closed. In addition, the bridge is used for various kinds of recreation including snowmobiling, fishing and walking, and holds the small but close-knit community together.
Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times