Maxwell Lake Bridge here to stay

·6 min read

The Maxwell Lake Bridge survived another round of discussions by council and with a bit of a makeover, it will be part of the community for the long haul.

Ramps will be constructed to allow pedestrian-only access with a budget of $125,000, leaving behind the initial plan to build ramps for maintenance and emergency vehicle access. A request for proposal (RFP) process will take place and come back to council by July 31, 2021.

Coun. Dewly Nelson said the majority of locals he spoke to want to keep access to cross the lake in the location of the bridge.

The Maxwell Lake Bridge Plan will also incorporate the lowering of the bridge deck by at least 450 millimetres and modification of the balustrades to a maximum of $90,000.

Winston Rossouw, Hinton’s manager of engineering and development services, said there is a possibility of lowering the bridge, but that the bridge was designed to take into consideration extreme water levels and to support heavy equipment. The estimated cost of lowering the bridge is $75,000 to $80,000, including re-engineering the reinforcement and lifting the bridge, he said. This won’t reduce the footprint of the bridge but facilitate better grading for the ramps.

“I think this notion of lowering the bridge, reducing its overall visual impact and also making it a much more pedestrian friendly gradient leading up to the bridge, is likely the best way to start exploring because that meets with the concerns we’ve heard from the community,” Coun. Ryan Maguhn said.

The bridge currently has a high deck and railings to accommodate operational equipment, but Ostashek pointed out it makes sense to drop the handrails and remove some of the cross structure to allow better sightlines for pedestrians.

“Part of the appeal of the old bridge that was there, was that you could look over the railing or through the railings and watch the beavers and the fish and everything else part of the wetland there swim underneath the bridge. In its current state, you can’t do that,” he said.

While it will depend on the water elevation, Michaels said it would not make sense to lower the bridge by less than a foot.

“The lower we go, the further the impact should the water level rise, you could have it submerged partially,” said Rossouw. He added that engineering requirements would have to be considered for potential lateral sway caused by ice and snow pushing the bridge.

Another risk of lowering and potentially submerging the bridge is the maintenance component and periodical treatment of the steel and planking.

“I perceive that doing what we’re asking is not a small job, it is a significant endeavor based on what I’ve seen of the bridge. I’m assuming there’s a lot to doing that, cutting chunks and making sure it’s also feasibly stable,” said Coun. Trevor Haas.

Engineers will look at the maximum the bridge can be lowered and what reinforcements will be needed, Rossouw said.

“Anything is possible, it’s just the cost that’s attached to it and to make sure the serviceability of it will be there for the next ten, twenty, thirty years,” Rossouw added.

The cost of the project is capped at $251,000, which administration recently secured in grant funding through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) COVID-19 resilience stream grant under the Active Transportation Infrastructure category.

In a six month process to get approval, administration worked through a provincial threshold and then provincial recommendations were made to the federal government to receive the money, said CAO Emily Olsen.

Ostashek stated this project should be capped at the ICIP grant value and that no taxpayer dollars be invested in the bridge rehabilitation project without councils approval.

If the ICIP money does not support the modified changes proposed by council, this project would not go through. As well, if this comes in over budget, this project will not be approved.

The grant terms outline that the projects must start before Sept. 30, 2021 and must be completed by Dec. 31, 2021.

Rehabilitation for pedestrian-only access means reduced design requirements and inclusive access, but does not uphold the initial intent of the project.

Administration explained that this means some adjusting for emergency response teams.

A request for decision on the project scope, details, timeline, and deliverables will come to council prior to July 31, 2021.

Any remaining funding in the Maxwell Lake Bridge Rehabilitation project will be utilized to extend boardwalk connectivity from the north and south bridge ramps to the existing boardwalk or trail sections.

“The intent is that any of the funds that are leftover after the bridge ramps and bridge modifications are done, be utilized within the parameters of the ICIP grant to be able to extend bridge ramps out as we can to tie them into existing boardwalk or trail,” Ostashek said.

Rossouw pointed out that there is still unfinished work with a portion of the former bridge that was unable to be completely removed due to weather conditions during the installation of the new bridge. The removal for the old bridge was scheduled for September 2020, however approximately 2.5 metres of the old bridge deck was not removed due to complications resulting from high water levels.

Outstanding work will be completed using $320,000 secured through the 2021 budget process, and $34,736.34 from the 2020 carry-forward amount allocated to complete deficiency work for 2018.

Administration presented three options for the bridge to council during the special meeting on April 27, including rehabilitation for accommodating operational equipment for maintenance and safety, rehabilitation for pedestrian accommodation only, or to remove the bridge and repurpose at an alternate location.

Accommodating operational equipment would have cost the town an estimated $398,000 to instal ramps.

Ostashek said he has heard that while emergency access would be beneficial, it still doesn’t grant full access to all the trails and that the tradeoff isn’t worth the impact of the bridge on the natural aesthetic.

The ICIP grant would not have supported the removal of the bridge.

The Maxwell Lake bridge replacement was approved by council during the 2017 capital budget process to remove the bridge that slumped into the wetland and was structurally compromised.

It was removed that same year and replaced by a new metal bridge early in 2019. Gravel ramps leading up to the bridge were installed in accordance with the initial design, however during inspections, Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) deemed the gravel ramps to be out of compliance with respect to the volume of gravel placed within the wetland.

The gravel was removed and replaced by temporary steps to support pedestrian access to the bridge.

Since the launch of this project in 2018, stakeholders have raised concerns regarding the future development of this crossing and the intended usage.

Masha Scheele, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hinton Voice