Sunday, July 21, 2024

‘Switching gears’: Confederation Bridge structure in Smiths Falls will have a more heritage look

Confederation Bridge will be replaced with a timber bridge, but this change in direction will cost about a year’s progress as it won’t be installed until 2025. A bowstring steel bridge with a concrete pad was previously approved by council, but they changed gears on March 25, citing they wanted to see more of a heritage design. – Laurie Weir photo

The bridge over the Rideau Canal in Smiths Falls will now be a timber design.

Smiths Falls town council changed directions on their plans for Confederation Bridge, opting to go back to the drawing board to come up with a timber structure, instead of the steel bowstring bridge with concrete deck.

This option will add about $500,000 to the build which won’t be completed until 2025.

Director of Public Works Paul McMunn presented a report to council during the regular committee of the whole meeting on March 25, where he sought direction on the look of the new structure.

Would it be a bowstring bridge with a concrete deck and painted black as previously decided by council, or “do we switch gears?”

The Smiths Falls Heritage Committee wanted more input into the new design as some felt this bowstring option didn’t have a heritage look or feel to it.

McMunn said they’re looking at a 30 per cent increase to what they’ve already budgeted to go with option three.

According to figures that are now two years old, the overall budget for the replacement of the Confederation Bridge is $1,367,000. There is approximately $1,250,000 remaining in the budget for this project, but McMunn said due to COVID and rising construction costs, it may be more than that now.

McMunn said if they chose option one, they could “forge ahead” with the status quo and see the bridge installed in 2024.

“Or, we can engage StructureCraft to craft a sole source project to detail design,” he said.

Option two would see the British Columbia company, StructureCraft, create and build a design to ship to Ontario for installation. They had submitted an “unsolicited” proposal, McMunn said.
StructureCraft built the Bridge of Dreams in Princeton, BC, which McMunn showed council back in January.

“They could provide us with a turnkey solution for this bridge,” he said, minus the work on approaches, landscaping, commemorative features and lighting. That would be all outside of their scope, he said.

With option three, staff will now direct TSI (the engineers) to prepare a request for proposal for a design-build arrangement to solicit proposals for a timber bridge. It is anticipated that this option would delay the process resulting in the project not advancing to construction until 2025.

Coun. Chris McGuire chose option three as the best choice, saying the town has a procurement policy for a reason, and they need to get the best work done for the residents, while Coun. Steve Robinson wanted to move forward with option one.

Mayor Shawn Pankow supported option three as well, as there is an opportunity create new heritage aspects in the town, he said. If properly maintained, the investment they’re making now will likely last 100 years, the mayor noted.

Coun. Dawn Quinn said she’d like to see StructureCraft create the bridge. “Let’s have something that’s going to complement the whole picture,” she said, as she chose option two.

“I’m option one all the way,” said Coun. Jay Brennan. “I can’t believe we’re willing to spend 30 to 40 per cent more on a river crossing that has been out of commission for seven years and I appreciate what the mayor said, but it’s 100 years old. A steel bridge with a concrete pad, surely to God, will last longer than a wooden bridge. Where you have to spend $80-grand every few years just to maintain. So, I’m option one just on a cost perspective. I thought it looked good.

People need to get over to that park and that’s the whole idea. Quite frankly, I’d like to see cars go across there too, but I’m option one.”

Coun. Jennifer Miller asked about a lookout and flower pot holders for option one, and if they could be accommodated at this stage. She chose option three, however, citing the heritage aspect of the bridge.

McMunn said they have a site visit scheduled with the MHC this week to see what parts of the bridge can be salvaged, and how it can be commemorated.

Quinn asked about funding opportunities through grants.

McMunn noted that there is a Natural Resources Canada grant that they could look into if they decide to go with the timber frame model, but the amount is not available, he said. There may also be an opportunity to obtain a grant through the Active Transportation Fund.

“We’ve got our eye on any potential funding that could be coming down the pike for this project.”

Coun. Peter McKenna said it came down to the cost for him. It would “probably be a half million dollars more for the wooden bridge,” he said. “I keep looking at that water tower and the millions it’s going to cost us.”

For that reason, he chose option one and was hoping to “get the best price we can on that bridge.”

Miller, who chaired the meeting, said she was looking at a tie vote, (three for option one and three for option three) and asked Quinn if she would consider option three. She did.

“You have your direction,” Miller said to McMunn, as option three had four votes.

This will come to a future council meeting for final approval.

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