July 15, 2015

Major expenditure needed to replace one-lane bridge

As published in The Erin Advocate

One-lane bridges need to become a thing of the past, especially when they carry substantial high speed traffic between communities – and sooner rather than later if they’re falling apart.

That’s the case with the bridge on Winston Churchill Blvd. just north of 27 Sideroad (Highpoint Sideroad on the Caledon side). It was built in 1920, rehabilitated in 1950, and now handles an average of 2,400 vehicles per day. A recent inspection report found it to be in “very poor condition” and recommended a new two-lane bridge “to improve public safety”.

People who use the road regularly to travel between Erin and Orangeville have learned how to judge the speed of oncoming traffic to see who will have to slow down and who will get to go first. But for those unfamiliar with the road or not paying attention, a one-lane bridge creates the need for an unexpected quick decision, which can be more difficult at night.

Winston Churchill is the boundary road for Caledon on the east (in Peel Region) and Erin on the west (in Wellington County). Further south, it is considered a Regional Road, with the Region and County sharing the costs, but this bridge, which crosses a tributary of Shaw’s Creek, is in a section where the local Towns are responsible.

There’s no detailed cost estimate yet, but Transportation Engineer Hilda Esedebe, of the consulting firm McIntosh Perry said a full replacement with two lanes could cost about $1.5 million.

At a recent Public Information Centre in Alton, as part of an Environmental Assessment (EA) now being conducted by the Town of Caledon, she said the reconstruction is planned for next summer and that the Town of Erin is expected to contribute 50% of the cost. The existing bridge has an estimated remaining service life of six years.

Erin Mayor Al Alls said that while it is normal to share costs for boundary roads, Erin has not been formally asked to participate. He expects to discuss the matter soon with Caledon Mayor Allan Thompson.

Erin has, however, included the project in its 5 Year Capital Plan for 2016, with an amount of $680,000. Like most of the 55 other items on the Roads list, the Winston Churchill bridge is “unfunded”, with no grants allocated and no reserve funds set aside. The draft plan provided to council last January showed $21.8 million in Roads infrastructure needs over five years, with $17.4 million unfunded.

The bridge will be discussed in the 2016 budget process, when council decides how much it is willing to borrow and which projects will make the cut.

Of course, the costs for Erin and Caledon could be greatly reduced if they were shared with all taxpayers in Wellington and Peel – but the bridge could collapse while waiting for such good news. Caledon has been lobbying Peel to take over this section of Winston Churchill (north of Beech Grove Sideroad) as a major arterial route, and similar discussions are ongoing at County Council. Erin will take any road uploading it can get. If upper tier municipalities take over a road, they are legally obliged to take over any debt payments related to its improvement.

The EA for the Winston Churchill bridge considered the lower-cost options of doing nothing, of closing the bridge permanently or of leaving it at one lane. Rehabilitation of the existing deck and foundations could last 20 years, and a new one-lane deck on rehabilitated existing foundations could last 50 years. The recommendation is an entire replacement with two lanes, expected to last 75 years.

The updated design would mean lower maintenance costs, a wider span that would improve river flow, and roadside barriers and railings that meet modern safety standards.