Courtenay council pondering how to repair heavily used bridge

Further rehabilitation work on the Fifth Street Bridge is necessary, but it can wait five years, was the message to Courtenay council Monday.

After hearing last week that Courtenay's application to the Gas Tax General Strategic Priorities Fund for $1.75 million to recoat the Fifth Street Bridge was unsuccessful, council deferred spending on the necessary $2.5-million project until 2014 during Monday's council meeting.

"Council has asked staff to defer that until 2014 and to look for other grant opportunities," said Tillie Manthey, Courtenay director of financial services.

The rehabilitation project is the second phase of work on the Fifth Street Bridge; structural upgrade project, costing about $250,000, was completed during the fall. Kevin Lagan, Courtenay director of operational services, noted council has some flexibility with the second, more expensive, phase of the project.

"We have some breathing space," he said when telling council the bridge will last about five years before going into decline. "We don't have to do it next year; we can wait a little longer."

He added the $1.75-million grant application to the Gas Tax General Strategic Priorities Fund was a "stretch" to fit into that grant category.

He also noted funding for infrastructure works like bridge, roads and underground work is likely to be forthcoming in the near future.

Coun. Ronna-Rae Leonard agreed, pointing out the bridge may be in Courtenay but it's used regionally, and she would like to give "every opportunity for other grants to come through" before allotting City money to the project.

"I'm very hopeful for the infrastructure 2014 program that FCM (Federation of Canadian Municipalities) is working on with the federal government and this strikes me as the kind of project that would certainly be more suitable than the last grant that we applied for," she added.

Although the bridge work can wait up to five years, after the meeting Manthey explained project planning needs to get moving well before any work would actually start.

"Because those contractors in the province that are able to do that work are in demand, we would need at least a two-year heads-up to get that project done, so I'm thinking by the end of next year council needs to make a go or no-go decision, so that we're not at the end of that five-year term and then we're in the decline on the condition of the bridge," she explained. "So for now we're going to bump it into 2014 and hopefully there'll be some grant opportunities coming up this year."

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