St Clair to spend over $600k to fix remote bridge

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‘Half the people in here couldn’t even find it with a GPS’ says deputy mayor who opposed the move

St. Clair Township’s deputy mayor doesn’t know what his fellow council members were thinking.

Monday, council approved $610,000 in repairs to the bridge over Clay Creek on White Line after staff recommended the bridge be closed permanently.

The bridge, near CF Industries, was built on White Line in 1935. Residents said they had never seen the municipality do any maintenance to the structure in their lifetime. A large hole was discovered last April and it had been closed since then while township staff looked for solutions. A report to council suggested the bridge could be replaced for $2.67 million, repaired for $610,100 or abandoned and eventually removed for about $203,000

“The recommendation to close and remove this structure is a decision that we have not taken lightly,” wrote Paul daSilva, the township’s coordinating engineer in his report to council. “We are sympathetic to the area residents and how the closure of the structure has affected their lives. In the absence of any grants or funding by upper tiers of government, the township simply can’t justify the replacement of this structure.”

But the 15 property owners in the area wanted the bridge rehabilitated saying most will have to travel an extra 8.6 kilometres each trip if the bridge were to close.

In total, they estimated that everything from personal vehicles to school buses and garbage trucks would travel an extra 121,375 km per year which they said was “environmentally unfriendly.”

And the majority of council felt the rural taxpayers were right.
“I think the rural folks have the right (and) should have the privilege of traversing up and down the roadway the same as anyone else.

“The rehabilitation option seems reasonable,” said Councillor Bill Myers

“We’re not a poor township and I think all the members of our township deserve the same (services),” agreed Brad Langstaff adding the project should be completed in 2024.

Mayor Jeff Agar agreed. “I was wondering if we could wait to 2024 because we have…five bridges on the go there now and some of them aren’t even engineered yet,” he told council Monday. “We have the $3 million dollar one in the works right now. So if we will add that to our 2024 budget I’m sure we can fit it in on there.

“We have 93 structures and if you start closing one, how many more are going be done?”

While council agreed to include cash in the 2024 budget for the repair, Deputy Mayor Steve Miller disagreed.

“I can’t believe you people without even thinking about it spent $600,000 on that bridge,” he said as the meeting was ending.

“Half the people in here couldn’t even find it with a GPS.”