Jeff Heuchert email@example.com
Despite concerns expressed by a local heritage advocate, the City of Stratford is sticking to its schedule for the restoration of the Huron Street bridge.
Based on the subcommittee recommendation that was recently approved by council, a tender will be issued for the roughly $600,000 project in late fall of this year so that the maintenance and repair work is completed by the spring, ahead of the busy tourist season.
According to the city's director of infrastructure, Ed Dujlovic, a significant portion of the structure requires repointing, the process of removing and replacing deteriorating mortar from the joints in between stones. However, he said the bridge has a cement foundation underneath the stones and is structurally sound.
"We want to get the work done in the right season and not create an impact during heavy traffic times," Dujlovic explained at the May 26 council meeting. "We're trying to minimize the inconvenience."
That plan was strongly opposed by at least one citizen, Allan O'Neill, who is a member and past chair of the Heritage Stratford advisory committee.
He said the condition of the bridge is "appalling," and reminded councillors that the bridge – one of few remaining double-arched stone structures still in operation today in North America – is a designated heritage feature.
He said he's worried that parts of the bridge where the mortar has deteriorated or is completely gone might not survive another winter.
"We have water and snow, and freezing and thawing between those joints is going to be a major issue," he said. "If we don't do it this year there will be irreparable harm done."
The city had intended for the bridge work to be completed by May of this year and budgeted $200,000 for the project. However, when the city put out its tender the lowest bid received was more than $600,000.
By moving the project back the city hopes to reduce those costs. A later start will allow the city to close one lane of traffic around the bridge, enabling the contractor to bring materials closer to the work site. Had the work gone ahead in the spring the city was considering keeping both lanes of traffic open, which would have extended the overall project time.
Engineering staff also need extra time to coordinate a lane closure with the Ministry of Transportation, since Huron Street is part of a provincial highway.
The city plans to extend the length of the contract to 90 days as well, which Dujlovic suggested will allow a contractor to use a smaller work force and control quality and costs better. The original tender was for 30 days, a period that the director said may have been a bit "ambitious" given the extend of restoration work required.
Despite O'Neill's objections, council agreed to transfer the previously committed $200,000 into reserves for 2016, and to grant pre-budget approval for an additional $400,000.