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Pedestrian bridge replacement to move forward; council chooses $1.395M option

OPTION 6

Pedestrian bridge replacement to move forward; council chooses $1.395M option

by Mike Robinson

ELORA - Centre Wellington council has given the green light to move ahead on the Victoria Street pedestrian bridge in Elora.

At a special meeting on Nov. 22 at the Elora community centre, council voted in favour of “Option 6” as presented at the meeting.

Construction is expected to begin in the spring on the $1.395-million bridge, which will have a 6m deck width and a belvedere (viewing area) at mid-span that brings the width to 9.3m.

Prior to the council session, roughly 100 residents took part in a project open house to have a say on the bridge design and funding options.

Steve Taylor, project manager from BT Engineering, outlined the options under review.

Much of the meeting focused on  the overall width of the bridge, which is a major factor in the cost.

Taylor noted the province provided clearance to Centre Wellington, through an environmental assessment, to move forward with the project, including the detailed design phase.

One of the goals from the outset was to have the bridge mainly rest upon existing stone piers in the Grand River. The concept was primarily a rectangular structure with belvederes (viewing areas) on both sides of the bridge.

“Because we knew there would be constraints on funding and available capital, we added a statement of flexibility,” Taylor said, which allowed the township to proceed based on its ability to fund the project.

Council was offered several bridge design  options with the goal of obtaining the best value for the money.

Width options ranged from 4.8m with no belvederes at a cost of $1.065 million to 9m with belvederes extending the width to 12.3m at a cost of $2.434 million (roughly $1.3 million over the original budget).

Taylor said the direction of council was to hold the public meeting to gather further public opinion as, “This is a significant investment for the community for a bridge with an expected lifetime of 75 years.”

The first question asked was how the projected costs were calculated. Taylor stated the cost estimates are based on current market values.

Another person noted the meeting focused on pedestrian traffic only while previous meetings had considered options such as buskers or tents bringing more activity to the bridge.

Taylor agreed the busiest days would be when there are events on the bridge.

However, he said he believes a 6m width would accommodate this and not feel cramped.

Another person was concerned that bicycle traffic parking on the bridge could impede pedestrian traffic.

Taylor said there has not been discussion on locations where people could lock bicycles.

“It doesn’t have to happen on the bridge,” he clarified.

When someone asked whether potential pedestrian traffic includes the build-out of the mill redevelopment, Taylor explained traffic would be divided among three bridges/crossings.

Another resident opined  a wider bridge with belvederes was worth the extra cost considering the 75-year anticipated life of the structure.

Others contended the proposal is not just a bridge - but part of Elora’s tourism infrastructure and a destination feature.

Council meeting

As the special council meeting opened, Mayor Kelly Linton said it was “awesome to see the passion the community has for the things important to them.”

Councillor Don Fisher declared a conflict of interest as he owns a commercial property potentially impacted by council’s decision. As such he refrained from the discussion and vote on the matter.

“This is an important and exciting project for our township and this council,” stated Linton.

“We have the opportunity to move forward with the rebuilding of (this bridge) in downtown Elora. It has taken too many years to get to this point.”

He stressed the night’s meeting was to review the options for the bridge project, which was identified as a priority by council.

“It is about downtown revitalization, economic development, pride of place and infrastructure renewal,” said Linton.

Initially council had put money into its capital budget for the work.

“Then, through a very generous gift of the Jack R. Macdonald trust fund, council decided to complete this legacy project from this one-time gift,” said Linton.

Based on community input a design was created “but like many of our 2017 bridge projects ... our initial cost estimates were on the low side and council was tasked with determining how to deal with that.”

Linton said with the help of BT Engineering a value engineering process created a number of options to retain as many features as possible while remaining within budget.

The mayor said that after significant discussion, council chose to come back to the public with a number of options with price tags.

A brief additional presentation was made by staff and BT Engineering. Survey statistics showed 157 comments were submitted online and  65 were submitted at the meeting, for a total of 222.

The results from both online and written surveys showed that 37% of respondents chose Option 6 as their number one choice.  

This option includes a 6m deck width with a belvedere at mid-span (width of 9.3m) and requires more funds than originally allocated.

At $1.395 million, this option exceeds the $1.1 million allocated through the Macdonald trust fund.

Delegations

Delegations at the meeting included Elora BIA administrator Fred Gordon and Pearle Hospitality president Aaron Ciancone. Both favoured Option 6.

Gordon said the Elora BIA needs the bridge to be built.

He considers it an urgent need to replace the bridge in a timely fashion - before the Badley bridge is removed by Wellington County (as part of the bridge replacement).

“We are alarmed that several anti-Pearle development interests have been monopolizing discussions ... trying to exploit this issue in their zeal to oppose the mill development,” Gordon added.

He cited documents dating back to 2003 asking for the replacement of the bridge - “long before Elora ever heard of the Landmark Corporation or Pearle Hospitality.”

Gordon said the bridge replacement is for the benefit of everyone in Elora.

“For nearly 15 long years, we have waited and suffered without a bridge and the long closure of the Elora Mill Inn,” said Gordon.

He noted that as a long-time merchant, “commerce in downtown Elora has never been the same since the Victoria Street Bridge closure.”

Gordon concluded, “This bridge is a legacy bridge. It is no ordinary bridge - and this is no ordinary town.”

Ciancone remained excited and committed to the Elora Mill project. Work is well underway on the north side and work is to begin on the south side shortly, he said.

Ciancone said the Victoria Street bridge project is important to the portion on the north side of the Grand River, which is anticipated to open in May.

He considered being able to walk over the bridge and past Elora’s shops on Mill Street as part of the overall experience.

The decision

Council unanimously decided to move forward with Option 6 at a cost (including non-rebated HST) of $1.395 million.

Council chose to fund the additional amount with internal funds, including  $160,000 from the operations centre reserve and $135,000 from the dedicated bridge capital levy.

In a later press release Linton stated, “This process has brought our community together to make a decision on a bridge that will add to the unique character of downtown Elora.

“It balances our wants and needs and provides Elora with an exceptional heritage backdrop.”

 

December 1, 2017

 
 

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