Norfolk seeks savings on bridge repair

Single-lane bridges 'charming,' mayor says

The Bailey bridge on Norfolk Road 45 south of Langton was closed earlier this month after it failed a safety inspection. Norfolk public works is compiling a report on replacement options for council. Construction of a permanent replacement is scheduled to begin next spring. MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER

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LANGTON — Norfolk staff and consulting engineers were directed this week to expand their options for the repair of the Bailey bridge on Norfolk Road 45.

The bridge, which was installed as a temporary structure in 1992, is located between Highway 59 and the Walsingham East Quarter Line south of Langton. Following an inspection, it was deemed structurally unsound Dec. 3.

Norfolk public works planned to replace the bridge with a two-lane concrete structure. Plans were to call tenders for the replacement in March.

However, at this week’s meeting of Norfolk council, Mayor Kristal Chopp said there are less expensive options and that staff should bring a report to council explaining them. Council agreed and the door was opened to a more modest replacement at a lower cost.

Chopp suggested a single-lane prefabricated structure might be in order. They cost about 20 per cent of the two-lane concrete option and can take less than a week to install.

With the concrete, two-lane option, Norfolk Road 45 could be closed from May to November of next year.

“People travel from all over to see one-lane bridges,” Chopp said. “They are rare anymore, and I think they are charming.”

Ross Bateman of Langton is a former chair of Norfolk’s heritage committee.

He has been a long-time advocate of single-lane steel bridges in rural areas with low traffic volumes. Bateman likes them because they are similar in appearance to the old single-lane pony-truss bridges that used to dot the local countryside.

Some of these old bridges have been re-located and preserved as historic artifacts.

One carries traffic over a stream at the Walpole Antique Farm Machinery compound in Jarvis. Several have completed pathways over watercourses on the Waterford Heritage Trail in the area of the Black Bridge overpass.

G. Douglas Vallee Ltd. in Simcoe is Norfolk County’s consulting engineer on bridge structures.

Owner John Vallee has taken a hard line with council about the types of bridges he’s prepared to endorse. Vallee prefers two-lane concrete structures rated for highway traffic.

This week, Bateman recalled how a two-lane concrete structure was installed on a side street in Port Ryerse several years ago at a cost of about $1.3 million. Bateman said “the bridge to nowhere” carries very little traffic.

By contrast, Bateman has made contact with an Alabama firm that manufactures single-lane and lane-and-a-half bridges for about $150,000 US. They build to specifications and will custom design a structure to fill a given space.

“They say ‘Tell us what you want and we’ll design it,’” Bateman said. “Two lanes, one-and-a-half lanes – it’s pretty much the same price.”

During Tuesday’s discussion, Langton Coun. Roger Geysens said a bridge failure such as that on Norfolk Road 45 can force farmers, in some instances, to make a six- or seven-mile detours to get to their fields or get their grain to elevators.

Geysens said any replacement structure should be strong enough to handle heavy trucks and the huge tractors and implements that have become the norm in the agricultural zone.

In his report to council, county engineer Gary Houghton said the Bailey bridge on Norfolk Road 45 could be re-opened for several months following a repair costing about $100,000.

Houghton added, however, that this wouldn’t be good value for the tax dollar given that construction of a permanent replacement will begin in the spring.

Norfolk Road 45 between Highway 59 and Walsingham East Quarter Line is closed till further notice.

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com

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