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The Meaford Independent

Bridge Blues on the Way

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bognor_bridge_constructionNearly $20 million needs to be spent on bridges and culverts within the Municipality of Meaford over the next 10 years. So says a report submitted to council by Director of Operations, Stephen Vokes on Tuesday October 11.

In his report, Vokes identifies 118 required bridge and culvert maintenance projects including 15 full bridge replacements which will need to be funded over the next 10 years.

In the immediate future $1.1 million is required over the next two years in order to complete 56 bridge maintenance projects.

The report to council was the result of the most recently completed bridge inspections as required by provincial regulations that dictate that all structures with a span greater than three metres shall be inspected every two years by a qualified structural engineer. According to the report submitted by Vokes, Meaford has 84 structures that meet that criteria.

“Ainley & Associates Limited conducted the 2008 to 2011 inspections of the Municipality’s structures using the OSIM format. As part of the inspection, Ainley and Associates prepared a summary report of the findings,” wrote Vokes.

Vokes advised council that his department will be seeking funding in the 2012 budget to begin the process of establishing a bridge rehabilitation and reconstruction program that will address the coming need for maintaining or replacing bridges in Meaford.

“Bridge rehabilitation and reconstruction is not presently included in the 2012 Capital Budget, but will be submitted as an expansion request during budget deliberations,” Vokes wrote in his report.

The Municipality of Meaford is well aware of what can happen when a bridge fails and no plan is in place. In October of 2008 a bridge spanning Walter's Creek in Bognor was closed after it was determined that the bridge was no longer safe. The cash-strapped municipality scrambled to secure funding and to initiate the engineering and design process. The replacement bridge was not ready for traffic until 15 months later when the bridge was officially reopened on January 21 of 2010. Vokes told The Independent at that time that he did not want to see a repeat of that experience.

“The need for increased bridge rehabilitation and reconstruction funding is evident, as identified in the summary of OSIM reports. The status quo level of rehabilitation expenditure is not adequate and staff is recommending that the level of expenditure be increased through the development of a Bridge Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program,” wrote Vokes.

How much the municipality will need to fund itself for the required repairs is unknown at this time, and will depend on what infrastructure grant funding the municipality will be eligible for. Having a program in place would help Meaford to be ready when grant opportunities present themselves.

“While Operations staff are constantly researching funding opportunities for all infrastructure programs, staff are concerned that the Municipality may not be prepared or eligible for funding programs as a result of no “shovel ready” projects,” Vokes said in his report.

While the price tag for repairing bridges in the municipality may have come as a shock, the need for such maintenance was not unexpected.

“We have over 100 bridges in our municipality, many of them older than I am, and some are starting to deteriorate,” offered Deputy Mayor Harley Greenfield.

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