In the opinion of a former member of Courtenay council, a year’s postponement of the 5th Street Bridge rehabilitation project would be a good idea.
Erik Eriksson suggests that some downtown businesses — already impact by the coronavirus pandemic — may not recover when the bridge closes for six months next summer.
“This would be very bad for our downtown, which is the heart of our community,” Eriksson said in an Oct. 19 presentation to council. “You need a flourishing downtown.”
He said postponing the project for another year could allow time to forge partnerships and spread the cost with the rest of the Comox Valley, and afford a chance to better explore the cost benefit of a new bridge.
“With all the talk of senior governments promoting infrastructure development as a COVID economic recovery plan, there might be a possibility of accessing funding.”
Eriksson also suggests a mailed Elector Response Form — as opposed to the Alternative Approval Process — would garner a fair representation of the opinion of Courtenay electors to authorize a borrowing bylaw.
He argues that voters may not know the AAP process is happening.
He said residents might be opposed to the authorization for a number of reasons:
1. They might want to support protecting the downtown by causing a postponement of the project;
2. They might not think it is fair that only Courtenay taxpayers have to pay for the bridge;
3. They might think it is a better idea to replace the bridge entirely.
Mayor Bob Wells said council faces some “massive challenges” if the project is further delayed. He also notes the City has received extensions on grant funding — which would be lost if the project were postponed or cancelled.
“We’ve been told there is no further funding for this, because we’ve already been approved,” Wells said, noting costs continue to rise the longer the project is delayed. “I think the time for delay, unfortunately, is not now.”
He said it’s time to either repair or replace the bridge — and the City does not have the funds for the latter option.
Coun. Doug Hillian noted that the bridge will not be closed but will have a single lane open during construction.
The Fifth Street Bridge was constructed in 1960. The last significant investment in the bridge, including seismic upgrading, was in 2012.