Work could begin as soon as next week as Woolwich scrambles to reopen the Glasgow Street bridge in Conestogo.
The old steel bridge has been closed for repairs on several occasions in recent years, but this time it’s bank erosion, not the structure itself, that forced the immediate closure on Aug. 25 for an estimated three or four weeks.
Heavy rains the weekend before exacerbated a problem with erosion and crumbling pavement on the southwest side first identified in the spring, said Jared Puppe, the township’s acting manager of engineering.
“All the rain … just washed out the edge of the road.”
Initial estimates put the repair costs at $30,000 to $75,000. Woolwich is currently taking bids from contractors to carry out the work, but the going has been slow given that it’s the busy part of the construction season, he noted.
“It might be a little more than we anticipated. On the higher side of those estimates.”
The engineering department had started looking into the issue, including talks with the Grand River Conservation Authority, in the spring, but recent rainfalls brought the matter to a head.
“We were aware of the issue – it started around May. Now, it’s just become an emergency situation,” said Puppe, adding the township is looking to get the route reopened as soon as possible.
Preliminary design includes the placement of large stones, the re-establishment of the embankment, roadway and vegetative plantings to provide slope stabilization.
In the longer term, Woolwich will have to make tougher decisions about the aging structure, including shutting it down completely, restricting it to just horse-drawn buggies and pedestrians, or replacing it with a new bridge.
The single-lane structure, built in 1886, is already subject to height and weight restrictions. Concerns about traffic flows are at the heart of a controversial median that prohibits left-hand turns from Waterloo’s Millennium Drive onto Glasgow Street, a longstanding source of grievance for residents of Conestogo.
“I don’t think there’s an easy solution,” said Puppe.
In the meantime, township crews are expected to replace wooden “road closed” signs with concrete barriers over concerns some drivers are simply moving them out of the way.