Troubled bridge over Brockton waters leads to emergency council meeting

·4 min read

BROCKTON – People of a certain age will probably remember a gently beautiful song about a “bridge over troubled waters.” In this case, the waters are fine but the D. S. Weis Memorial Bridge has its troubles – to the tune of $188,361.80 in additional work.

The bridge on Concession Road 8 between Sideroad 10 and Bruce County Road 3 will be completely closed until at least late August. A detour along Concession Road 10 remains in effect.

Brockton council held a special emergency meeting on June 15 to deal with the matter. The project is already underway; when the asphalt was removed from one side of the bridge, it revealed deterioration was much greater than anticipated.

Gregg Furtney, director of public works, said he’d been called to an emergency site meeting the previous week. Because the work is already in progress, a decision couldn’t wait for the next regular council meeting. A special meeting of council was held to ensure the project stays on schedule.

Council was presented with two options.

Option one is a patch repair in the amount of $73,910.20. While a viable option, Furtney told council additional work would likely be required in five to 10 years. The bridge would have to remain closed longer, because the work would have to be done on one lane first, and then the other. The seam in the middle is a concern for both engineers and contractors.

Option two is the one Furtney recommended and council approved – a full concrete overlay at an estimated cost of $188,361.80. This is the one that makes the most sense, said Furtney. It will last two to three times longer than the repair, and with the need for additional work with option one, could end up costing less in the long run.

With option two, the bridge will need to be completely closed sooner than expected, but there’s a good chance the work will take less time. And the seam in the middle will not be a concern.

The detour on Concession 10 is already established.

Furtney explained in his report that these issues often arise with bridge rehabilitation work, as inspectors can only see what’s on the surface. He likened it to a home inspection – they look, but they’re not breaking open walls.

Coun. Steve Adams said that the situation is unfortunate, but “we need to do the right thing. There was no way to know what was there until the asphalt was off.” He pointed out the shorter time means less time for traffic control and also less asphalt needed, which could mean some savings.

“We need to do this right,” he said.

Deputy Mayor Dan Gieruszak noted that no one knows what the second lane will look like once the asphalt is off.

Coun. Dean Leifso commented about the “unusual circumstance. This is based on a best estimate.”

“What alternative does council have?” asked Coun. Tim Elphick. Using Furtney’s home inspection analogy, he continued, “We’ve already opened up the walls and we have to do something.”

“Doing nothing is off the table,” agreed Furtney.

Earlier in the process, replacing the bridge might have been an option, but not at this point, with work already underway. He said the bridge should last another 30 years.

“We should know within a week how bad the other side is,” said Furtney.

Other concerns discussed by council included the detour, the hardship for farmers trying to take their winter wheat off, and trying to get heavy loads up the hill.

Furtney said he’d update council when he has more information including regarding timelines.

The additional work will be funded through borrowing.

Background

The repair project originally went to tender in April 2020. The recommendation was to not award the tender at that time, to re-evaluate the costs and to retender later in the year.

At that point, GM BluePlan Engineering Ltd. estimated the construction cost to be $505,000. The sole bid had come in at $731,448. The reason for the lack of interest in the project and the high price submitted was possibly due to COVID-19, according to a letter from GM BluePlan.

The project appeared in the 2021 budget at an estimated $750,000.

In March of this year, the project again was put out to tender. Of the five submissions, council accepted the lowest, from National Structures Inc., at $697,106.27 plus HST. That tender amount included a $60,000 contingency fund.

Furtney said staff do not want to use the $60,000 contingency fund at this time, with the project just starting.

The municipality has a binding contract with the company.

The original plan was for the project to take eight weeks to complete, with one lane open to traffic for much of the time. A full-lane closure was expected for the first three weeks of August. The bridge is now completely closed.

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times

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