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Woolwich will need millions to repair its bridges

With expensive repair bills soon coming due and little money to pay for them, Woolwich council got a dollars-and-cents lesson in the cost of failing infrastructure.

The township is facing $9.1 million in repair costs over the next 10 years just to deal with its aging bridges and culverts. That figure jumps to $17.2 million if it wants to replace its three deteriorating steel-truss bridges, one of which has already been closed, rather than trying to rehabilitate them.

Required by the province to inspect bridge structures – bridges and culverts – every two years, the township last year had an engineering consultant determine the state of its inventory and the come up with a cost for tackling any deficiencies. The need for remediation work was ranked on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being the most urgent where the work should be done within a year’s time.

Of the 50 structures inspected, three were deemed to be of the highest priority. Nineteen should be dealt with in the next five years, indicated a report tabled at Monday night’s council meeting. The remainder of the structures fall past a five- or 10-year timeline, noted director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley.

The three on the agenda for 2016 are structures on Hill Street, Reid Woods Drive and Woolwich Street South. Rehabilitation costs have been pegged at $1.4 million. An additional $5.7 million needs to be committed to projects over the next five years, and a further $1.9 million within 10 years, bringing the total to $9.1 million.

The township currently has nowhere near enough money to pay for the work, with costs over and above a host of other capital expenditures on roads and sewers, for instance.

“We can’t afford to do all of these,” Kennaley noted bluntly.

While such projects have often been helped by funding from the federal and provincial governments, no money has been forthcoming of late, he added.

“We’re still not getting adequate levels of assistance from the senior levels of government.”

Pointing out that when funding programs are announced they usually require shovel-ready projects that can be turned around quickly, Coun. Patrick Merlihan inquired about the readiness of the bridge projects.

Kennaley noted the Hill Street project engineering work had been carried out. The township had applied to the province for funding, but was turned down. Another two of the projects is slated to move into the engineering stage this year.


Looking at the estimated costs, Coun. Mark Bauman suggested the township look at closing the three old steel bridges rather than repairing them or even considering the massive replacement costs.

The Middlebrook Place bridge is already closed to traffic due to safety concerns. Similar structures on Peel Street in Winterbourne and Glasgow Street in Conestogo have more value as historic features than they do as transportation routes, he said.

Some of the work will be discussed as part of the 2016 budget deliberations now underway.

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