The suitability of the Church Street Bridge to handle all north/south vehicular traffic in St. Marys will be put to the test on Saturday, Aug. 24, as the town — for the first time since the closure of its iconic “Green Bridge” — hosts one of a number of annual events that feature a closure of Wellington Street.
This weekend, it’s the third annual Town-organized Car and Bike Show.
“We’re quite confident that one bridge (the Church Street Bridge) can handle all the traffic,” stated Senior Manager of Operations Chad Papple, when asked about preparations for the Car and Bike Show by Councillor Tony Winter at a Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday, Aug. 13.
An official request from the Tourism Department sought approval for the closure of Queen Street between Church and Water Streets, as well as Wellington Street between Trout Creek and Jones Street, from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.
The Downtown St. Marys Car and Bike Show starts at 11 a.m. and goes until 3 p.m. It’s free for all spectators. The annual event began in 2011 in the parking lot of the Pyramid Centre on James Street South. Last year, with the move to downtown, approximately 90 cars and motorcycles were registered for the show. More than half of those registered came from out of town.
“This year, we’re expecting an equally successful turnout,” says Kristen George, Town of St. Marys corporate event planner.
Registration for the Car and Bike Show will take place on the day of (Saturday, Aug. 24) only. There is a fee of $10 per vehicle and the first 150 vehicles to register will receive dash plaques. Participants will also be eligible to receive prizes throughout the day.
In addition to the Car and Bike Show, for the first time ever there will also be a Trunk Sale and Swap Meet happening at Milt Dunnell Field from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Vendors will be selling things like car parts, household items, and artisan crafts out of their trunks. Parking spots are available for those wishing to sell items during Swap Meet hours. Early bird registration is available for $15 and day-of registration is also available for $20.
Other events through the year for which the Wellington Street bridge is also typically closed include the Stonetown Heritage Festival in July and the Hospital Foundation radiothon in October.
Regarding the Car and Bike Show, Winter asked Papple if Town staff believed the closure late last month of the Water Street bridge would leave sufficient capacity to serve all traffic over Trout Creek during the day Saturday. And, although it wasn’t officially included on the agenda for the Aug. 13 Committee of the Whole meeting, that wasn’t the only time the Water Street Bridge came up for discussion.
Not long before the meeting’s adjournment, Councillor Bill Osborne asked Papple what it would cost to “secure the under structure” of the bridge to prevent further deterioration and avert the possible closure of the bridge even for pedestrian traffic. Papple couldn’t provide an exact number but said the cost would be “quite significant.”
To this, Councillor Don Van Galen expressed disappointment in the work contracted by the Town during the summer of 2012, which he said was meant to keep the steel truss bridge in operation for motor vehicles for at least a couple more years. He called the work done last year “a failure” and urged Papple to come back to Council with a report explaining why it didn’t have the intended effect.
Van Galen was also less than satisfied with Papple’s suggestion that the bridge be left alone until the results are received from a just-getting-underway Environmental Assessment (EA) into all Trout Creek vehicular crossings in St. Marys.
“This whole EA process is a bit of a mystery,” Van Galen said, adding the length of the delay means this particular Council will not be able to make a long-term decision about the structure. “I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why it should take 15 months to tell us what it’s going to take to fix the bridge. It’s not like we’re proposing to build an entire new bridge.”
To conclude his remarks, Van Galen called on Town staff to request a meeting between Council and representatives from the engineering firm B.M. Ross — which brought forward the recommendation earlier this year to close the Water Street bridge due to safety concerns, and which is also coordinating the EA.
CAO Kevin McLlwain responded that, as part of the early stages of the EA process, it’s expected that public meetings will be held this fall.