Courtenay council has directed City staff to proceed with rehabilitating the Fifth Street Bridge, with widened, cantilevered pedestrian and cycling paths on each side.
Cantilevers will add $2 million to the $6.3 million estimated cost of repairs, which include recoating and deck renewal. Construction will take about eight months. The tax impact will be 1.6 per cent.
At committee of the whole June 24, Manno Theos and Doug Hillian opposed a motion from David Frisch to include cantilevers in the rehab project.
The Fifth Street Bridge was built in 1960. It has since undergone a deck resurfacing, seismic upgrades and other maintenance.
Theos compared bridge repairs to working on a 20-year-old car. He would like to further explore the scope of building a new bridge, which consultants say would cost $25- to $30-million.
“If we’re going to invest $6 million here, $4 million there, the costs will add up,” Theos said. “Are we going down a path that will end up costing taxpayers a whole lot more money by doing these patchwork, and to some degree temporary, fixes for a long-term solution?”
Consultant Katie Hamilton said periodic investment is required with a large piece of infrastructure, especially in a marine environment.
“I think what we’re seeing is the cost escalation due to having not addressed it earlier,” Hamilton said. “That routine investment would be required even with a new bridge.”
Theos feels the cantilever option will create a burden on traffic flow, and that downtown businesses will suffer due to an additional two months of construction to widen the pathways. He suggested a four-lane bridge might alleviate traffic congestion.
“It appears like it would be a good solution, but considering the connectivity that’s already in place, it doesn’t actually provide an increased level of service,” director of engineering services Ryan O’ Grady said.
Frisch doesn’t advocate a four-lane bridge because he wants to see people on foot. Coun. Wendy Morin also advocates connectivity and walking downtown.
“By creating better connectivity, this does support the vibrancy of downtown businesses,” Coun. Melanie McCollum said.
The bridge is expected to remain open to single-lane traffic during construction, though it might need to be fully closed for short periods. Construction will happen in 2020 or 2021.
A draft borrowing bylaw will be prepared for council’s consideration this fall. The $8.3 million project will receive a $1.96 million federal grant, with a funding deadline to complete the project by March 2022. The remaining $6.3 million is proposed to be funded by the City, with funding sources possibly including reserves and borrowing.
Public sessions to learn more about the rehabilitation project will be held this fall.
In a separate motion from Morin, council directed staff to explore options for a potential pedestrian bridge crossing from 6th Street to Simms Park, to be reviewed by council later this year. Construction cost estimate is $2- to $4-million. Theos opposed the motion.