BILL CLEVERLEY: ‘Fortin said the quick decision to replace the bridge was an attempt to meet a deadline to secure $42,000,000’

$840,000 City of Victoria study

to weigh Johnson Street Bridge fate

 

Refurbish or replace? 

‘Our job is to inform citizens,’

says Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin

 

Victoria Council will spend about $840,000 to develop an apples-to-apples comparison of replacing versus refurbishing the 85-year old Johnson Street Bridge.

“Once we have all of the information, our job is to make sure that citizens are fully informed,” Mayor Dean Fortin said following more than two hours of Council discussion yesterday.

“Then we will go through a process of determining which question we will take forward to a referendum in October.”

The unanimous Council decision comes after more than 9,800 people signed petitions during last year’s 45-day Alternative Approval Process, demanding a referendum on borrowing $42 million toward the $63-million bridge replacement project.

During the process, many people were critical of what they saw as Council rushing to replace the bridge without a thorough examination of the refurbishment option.

Fortin said the quick decision to replace the bridge was an attempt to meet a deadline to secure $42 million in funding through federal/provincial stimulus funding.

That funding wasn’t approved, but the City later secured $21 million from Ottawa.

Several Councillors said the message from the process was loud and clear: people wanted more information.

“Whether or not your position is that you want the bridge replaced or refurbished, you have to examine both options in order to come to the right conclusion,” said Councillor Pamela Madoff.

The planned spending, which comes on top of the more than $919,000 the City has already spent on the replacement project, will include about $400,000 to develop detailed designs and technical consulting work on refurbishment; $100,000 for an economic impact sutudy of the effects on downtown for bridge closing options during the work; $50,000 for a peer review of the technical work; $150,000 for public engagement; and $140,000 to hold the referendum.

“It’s going to cost a lot more money than we had originally budgeted for this, but I think it is a matter of we’ve been told by citizens that they need more information,” Councillor Lynn Hunter said.

Councillor John Luton, a cycling advocate who wants the bridge replaced, supports giving refurbishment a more thorough examination.

But he said the old bridge cannot be sufficiently rehabilitated to meet current and future transportation needs.

“I know during the counter-petition campaign it was said a bucket of cement and a can of paint would fix everything you need to fix for cyclists and pedestrians and that’s just not credible, Luton said.

Councillor Geoff Young, who has doggedly called for a more thorough examination of rehabilitation, said gathering additional information may well lead to the conclusion that replacement is the way to go.

“If we find refurbishment is extremely expensive, far beyond our expectations, that may lead us down one road.

“If we find it is very low cost and below what we expected, that may lead us down another road,” Young said.

Fortin defended the spending.

“It’s important – everything from getting the refurbishment option costs, getting the peer review of that to ensure people have confidence in the people we’ve hired to provide that, all the way through to nailing down the economic impact potential on closing the bridge or lane closures on our downtown.”

The debate over what to do with the bridge arose when an assessment by consultants Delcan Corp. found that it would fail in an earthquake of signficant magnitude and is in need of extensive repairs or replacement.

City engineers say if Council doesn’t do something about the bridge by 2012, it may have to consider closing it.

 

CCC BLOG reprint:

Victoria Times Colonist: timescolonist.com

Bill Cleverley: bcleverley@tc.canwest.com

$840,000 city study to weigh bridge fate

Friday, February 19, 2010

 

CCC

 

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