Repairing Courtenay’s 5th Street Bridge is a complex and expensive undertaking. Scott Stanfield photo

Council continues to weigh bridge repair options

Several factors related to rising budget costs

Repairing the Fifth Street Bridge in 2015 would have cost about $2.9 million. The price tag has increased to $6.3 million, according to 2019 cost estimates, for deck repairs and recoating. Add another $2 million if cantilevers and paths are added, and a further $4 million if a Sixth Street pedestrian bridge is ever constructed. Building a new bridge would cost $25- to $30-million, consultants say.

“It’s ongoing, and it’s complex,” Coun. Melanie McCollum said at the May 21 meeting. “We need to start getting policies in place, because it’s not going away.”

Courtenay council has been considering bridge rehabilitation options for several years. In 2017, senior governments awarded the City nearly $2 million towards repairs. The original deadline to complete the project has been extended from March 2020 to March 2022. However, construction cost estimates are now higher than costs that were requested for grant funding.

“The largest cost escalations occurred between 2014 and 2018, which have been record years for construction cost escalation on Vancouver Island,” a report to council states.

Detailed planning work had “proceeded in earnest” when government funds were confirmed in 2017, Courtenay CAO David Allen said.

“This included detailed design work, additional structural analysis, and developing options for rehabilitation solutions. Planning for a project of this scale can take typically take a year or more.”

Planning work for the bridge was ongoing for much of 2018 and continues this year.

“Updated cost estimates have been based on similar projects underway on Vancouver Island,” Allen said.

He notes that several factors have contributed to the higher project budget estimate. These include a scarcity of companies qualified to perform the work, a deeper understanding of the project scope based on careful technical analysis, and up-to-date information gathered from similar projects.

The City continues to work with engineering consultants to provide the best available information to councillors so they can make an informed decision about the next steps.

Staff will provide council with a report June 10 to seek direction on how to proceed.

•In another item at Tuesday’s meeting, council voted to discontinue Courtenay’s memorial bench program, which started in 1997 but has been on hold since 2008. Since then, more than 100 people have asked to be put on a waiting list in case the program is reinstated. 

City staff say the lifecycle cost of a regular park bench is about half the cost of a memorial bench, which benefits a select group of donors.

“Memorial programs were initiated with the optimistic but unrealistic view that the community was getting a free bench in exchange for a public memorial,” recreation director Dave Snider states in a report.

He notes that expectations attached to a memorial bench have caused soft costs to rise far beyond the quoted ‘purchase price’ due to administration and service requests.

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