Back to Plan A for causeway

Engineer says modifications would delay project

Norfolk council stopped talking about potential modifications to the $12-million Long Point Causeway project Tuesday when an engineer pointed out that deviating from the established design would likely trigger another lengthy round of public input and consultation.

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Norfolk council spent the better part of an hour discussing modifications to the $12-million Long Point Causeway project at its meeting Oct. 3.

However, all that blue-skying disappeared into thin air Tuesday when an engineer said attempts to find short-cuts and efficiencies at this point may actually delay the project further into the future.

Arianne Cowx, a project engineer with Parsons of Oakville, said major changes such as eliminating or relocating bicycle lanes would require re-circulating the revised plan to the public for further review and commentary.

Cowx agreed with council that the failing bridge on the causeway is an urgent problem that should be addressed as quickly as possible.

“Doing nothing is not an option,” Cowx said. “The bridge is in very bad condition and presents a safety issue.”

Cowx added that council’s suggestion Oct. 3 for a shave-and-pave of the 3.7-kilometre causeway produces a substantially different outcome than rebuilding the road as proposed.

Cowx said a surface re-treatment would cost about $886,000 and last about 10 years.

By comparison, a complete rebuild – while more expensive and disruptive – would last an estimated 50 years. Resurfacing would be expected as scheduled maintenance 25 years after completion.

Everyone at Tuesday’s meeting agreed that the deteriorating bridge is the priority and needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

Mayor Kristal Chopp expressed impatience with the proposed timeline of construction of August, 2020 into the summer of 2021. This is longer than would be necessary for a straightforward replacement because one lane of traffic will be kept open at all times. Still, Chopp would like construction to begin next spring, not mid-summer.

Duane Vangeest, a project manager with Ellis Engineering of St. Catharines, replied that the bridge can’t be rushed. Piles to support the new structure, Vangeest said, will have to be driven 150 feet down into the bedrock. Pile-driving alone, Vangeest said, will take several months.

There are also design complications.

Cowx said provincial regulations require design elements of bridges 40 years of age and older to be incorporated into the structures that replace them. This is an acknowledgment, council heard, that structures of a certain age have a heritage value that the province wants carried into the future.

Windham Coun. Chris VanPaassen said council needs to play the hand it dealt itself and proceed with patience.

“I think our guests understand we want this bridge done as quickly as possible,” he said. “I like the plan as it is. Let’s get it done as soon as possible. We know it’s going to take longer than we like, but what can we do?”

VanPaassen added that little can be done in and around Ontario waterways in the spring because of provincial regulations protecting fish, amphibian and waterfowl breeding grounds from disturbances.

A deputation Oct. 3 asked Norfolk to spare as many black willow and poplar trees as possible along the causeway.

Robert Welsh, a spokesperson for the Friends of the Causeway Association (FOCAS), said the trees themselves have been a fixture there for nearly 100 years. As well, Welsh said the root systems contribute to the stability of the roadbed.

Cowx said the contractor hired to rebuild the causeway will be asked to save as many trees as possible. However, Cowx added some trees will have to go to accommodate the new design. Which trees will be cut and how many has yet to be determined.

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com

 

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