St. Marys Journal Argus
Repairs will be made to the Water Street Bridge. But they will address the immediate integrity of the structure itself, rather then the much-talked-about re-opening of the bridge to vehicular traffic.
And, according to Town of St. Marys Director of Operations Chad Papple, who brought forward a report recommending the $10,000 repairs to a Committee of the Whole meeting of Town Council on Tuesday, Jan. 13, they’ll address the immediate safety of the crossing for the pedestrians who are now the only type of traffic for which the aging bridge remains open.
“This is really the first step to keep the bridge safe, especially for pedestrian traffic,” Papple told councillors.
The recommendation is based on the most recent annual inspection of the bridge by the engineering firm contracted by the town, which was conducted early last fall.
An analysis of that report, written by town staff and provided to councillors at that time, revealed that “corrosion continues to be a concern, as even without vehicular traffic, significant deterioration has occurred since the previous inspection in 2013 . . . Pack rust has also developed at the connection of the four cross-members which provide stability to the bridge, and in some cases there are no connectors left, and the cross-members are held in place by the rust.”
At last week’s meeting, Papple told councillors the $10,000 repair would mainly entail re-welding the two cross-members that are completely separated.
Councillors Lynn Hainer and Bill Osborne both sought assurances that spending the $10,000 wouldn’t end up being a waste of money if it was later decided that no more resources would be devoted to the bridge. But Councillor Don Van Galen argued that, “these repairs are going to be necessary no matter what the future of that bridge is.”
Last fall’s report from the engineering firm stated: “If the Town finds a way to effectively enforce (a five-tonne weight limit) and wishes to re-open the bridge to vehicles, the repairs to the top chord connections would be required first to maintain stability.” But when this suggestion was made by Van Galen, CAO Kevin McLlwain was quick to advise that the re-opening for vehicular traffic would be far from that simple.
“We’ve done nothing as an organization to address the way the traffic was abusing the (weight limit),” McLlwain said. “We’ve been told about the bridge being abused and the action we took was to close the bridge.”
Papple wasn’t quite as forceful in expressing his preference to see the bridge remain closed to vehicles. But it was equally clear he wants to heed the caution of the engineering firm.
“Right now, all we have is a recommendation from the engineers not to allow vehicle traffic,” the Director of Operations said. “Nobody’s telling us we can’t open that bridge. It’s just a recommendation from the engineers.”
Osborne noted that having the bridge open for car traffic “is exactly what the people in town want,” and wondered why it can’t happen here. “You drive around the province and you see this bridge has a two-tonne limit, this bridge has a three-tonne limit, which seems to be perfectly satisfactory for those bridges.”
Councillors then voted unanimously in favour of spending the $10,000. Mayor Al Strathdee first said he wanted to set up a special meeting soon about the bridge, but McLlwain suggested the schedule is pretty full with regular Council meetings and budget meetings, until the budget is cleared some time in late March. “I’m not prepared to wait until April,” Strathdee responded.
So it was suggested a portion of a planned upcoming Committee of the Whole meeting be set aside to deal specifically with the Green Bridge.