Mayor considers debentures to fund road, bridge repair
January 17, 2013
With Bracebridge facing at least $26 million in road and bridge repair costs over the next decade, Mayor Graydon Smith is questioning whether some of the needed money should be borrowed.
Smith raised the question at a special general committee meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 9, where Bill Van Ryn of the C.C. Tatham and Associates engineering firm tabled an extensive audit of the town’s most decrepit and under-maintained roads. Saying that the $4.9 million needed for bridge repairs over the next 10 years is already outside the scope of the town’s capital capabilities, Smith asked that new methods of funding be considered.
“It makes me question whether or not it would be appropriate to debenture some of the costs of these works,” Smith said. “I know that is rarely done when you’re talking road or bridge works, but money being cheap these days, and thankfully our debt level being low, (I’d) certainly like to see some analysis on that.”
Smith said he was hoping for a “clearer plan” to address road and bridge repair issues that keep dogging councillors and staff year after year.
“I’d hate to see us go through another cycle and not address that somehow or be cognizant of it somehow,” he said.
Among the recommended bridge repairs, Van Ryn’s report identifies 80 deficiencies on 19 structures, which range from rough riding surfaces and pedestrian or vehicular hazards to problems with their steel and concrete.
Three bridges – McCutcheon Bridge, Stephenson Townline Bridge and Goltz Lane Bridge – have been highlighted for immediate replacement.
Over the course of the past two years, councillors voted to replace the century-old McCutcheon Bridge in Vankoughnet with a steel bailey bridge. Town staff determined in 2011 that the single-lane structure, which carries Lambert Road over the Black River, was so weak it couldn’t be expected to withstand a major flood. C.C. Tatham and Associates was commissioned to design the new bailey bridge in February 2012. The cost of replacing McCutcheon bridge was pegged at about $860,000.
After objections from area residents who feared the new bridge would encroach on the property of a nearby homeowner, town staff tweaked plans to reduce the intrusion from 13 to about seven metres. As of December 2012, staff are now hoping the town can save an additional $286,000 through applying for a fund from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
Goltz Lane Bridge, Van Ryn said, could be closed and not replaced as it “doesn’t serve as anything other than as a shortcut right now.” Showing councillors a photo of its dilapidated state, he said the load-bearing capability of the structure is questionable.
“The embankments are failing, there are steel beams underneath which have failed, you can put your hands through them,” he said. “They have been twinned up with new steel, but … they are in pretty tough shape.”
Bracebridge and Huntsville agreed last April to share the $80,000 cost of an environmental assessment for replacing the Stephenson Road 1 bridge.
Van Ryn’s report says about $36 million is needed over the next decade for road repairs, but noted that amount could be trimmed to $22 million by deferring road widenings and improvements on low-volume roads.
Of the top 20 roads needing repairs, Van Ryn’s report identifies a section of Quebec Street between Wellington and Victoria Streets as the top priority for repair work. A section of York Street between Taylor Road and Alice Street followed in second place, trailed by two sections of Douglas Drive between Manitoba Street and Gladys Street, and between Gladys Street and Clearbrook Trail. Edward Street, from Muskoka Road to its terminus, placed fifth.
Van Ryn pointed to Valley Drive, ranked 10th on the list, as an example of how badly roads have deteriorated.
“The asphalt’s cracked. It’s rutted. The shoulders are basically non-existent. The ditches are full of winter sand and culverts are shallow and squished and heaving in places,” he said. “It’s just ready for a tune-up.”
In total, Van Ryn’s report states that about 116 kilometres of the town’s 317-kilometre road network – or about 36 per cent of roads – have deficiencies severe enough to warrant road improvement work. Deficiencies listed in the report range from surface condition problems to issues with structural condition and drainage.
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