‘We’re here to solve problems we didn’t create’: Brockville Railway Tunnel receives additional funding for repairs

Brockville Railway Tunnel – Hollie Pratt-Campbell/Brockvilleist

At their Tuesday, April 23 meeting, Brockville City Council authorized funding for the purchase and installation of additional equipment to return the Railway Tunnel to a fully functional condition, ideally in time for peak tourism season. 

The historic Brockville Railway Tunnel is the oldest of its kind in Canada and arguably the largest tourism draw for the city of Brockville. However, as previously reported by Brockvilleist, the tunnel has been closed to the public since November 2023 pending technical difficulties and malfunctions. 

The total amount of funding presented to council required to purchase these additional components is $300,229.20 (including net HST). A report was given by Director of Operations Phil Wood, who was asked to provide “short turn-around solutions to improve the longevity problems of lighting system equipment and further comprehensive long-term solutions intended to resolve chronic lighting system problems,” as per the meeting agenda. 

Wood explained that “at the end of the 2023 tourism season, the contractor directed us that we needed to replace 54 fixtures and four failed lighting enablers.” Council had previously approved a 2024 capital budget estimate of $120,000 to tend to those replacements. 

“Following the approval of the 2024 capital budget, staff entered into a public procurement process, which garnered nine qualifiable submissions from contractors,” Wood continued. “The lowest acceptable contract was undertaken and the components were purchased through that contractor and their assessment of the tunnel’s condition.” 

The various contractor’s totals with Net HST from the public tender are as follows:

1. ACF Electric $118,090.93 

2. Ford Electric $118,282.36 

3. Spark Power $134,322.18

4. Black & MacDonald $137,894.00 

5. Industrial Electrical Contractor Brockville 138,378.60 

6. RPA Electrical $141,910.43

7. Laroche Electric $148,681.54

8. WESCO $153,724.13 

9. ATEL Air & Electric $159,898.91

During maintenance and construction work in the tunnel at the start of 2024, further issues were detected. According to Wood’s report, “the scope of additional equipment includes 143 Color Kinetic lighting fixtures, 10 lighting enablers and auxiliary cables and components. This expanded scope is at a cost of $300,229.20 including net HST with an estimated delivery of 9-10 weeks.”

Wood detailed to the council, “What you see with that $300,000 and change is what the result of that extrapolation is. This is the total dollar value that would replace all of the fixtures and enablers that are known to be failed today,”

He clarified that “this does not fix the attrition problems we are seeing with the equipment, so staff are keenly on the trail of looking for short-term solutions that would hopefully address some of the immediate known concerns. We are looking at long-term solutions that would include an overhaul of the system to address some of the issues we’re seeing with the equipment failures. Both of those will have separate price tags.”

The floor was then opened for questions and Mayor Matt Wren was the first to speak, asking Wood if this past winter was the first time staff has had a contractor in to take an in-depth look at the tunnel.

“That’s correct,” Wood confirmed. “We’ve only ever had one contractor previous to this. It’s the same contractor that built the tunnel and designed it as well.”

When asked to explain the lighting issues in more detail for the public as well as the councillors, Wood explained “In regards to the tunnel, the reality is there is water dripping from the ceiling that hits the lighting components and it does have a very high humidity factor. If left unaddressed, this results in the heating, cooling, and the build-up of standing water, which infiltrates the components.”

He added that “it’s pretty safe to say, even through laboratory results we’ve received from the manufacturers of these components, that water infiltration has been a problem since day one.”

Mayor Matt Wren took one final opportunity to address the public, saying “there’s people out there looking for someone to blame and that person is not the person standing in this room, and I don’t really feel like it’s any of us sitting in these chairs either. We’re here to solve problems that we didn’t create. We’ve inherited them.”

Brockvilleist will continue to follow this story as more information becomes available. 

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