At least one of Woolwich’s old steel bridges is likely to continue carrying traffic. The subject of a public meeting last week, the Glasgow Street span in Conestogo has avoided the fate of two other structures recently put on the chopping block.

An engineering report recommends spending $700,000 to rehabilitate the Glasgow Street bridge, keeping it open to vehicles for another decade or two. Once it passes its useful lifespan, it should be kept for heritage value rather than demolished, the study suggests.

Some 70 people came through the public consultation session held February 20 at the township hall in Elmira.

“Most people were onboard with the plan we presented,” said Ryan Tucker, an engineering project supervisor with the township who’s been spearheading the bridge studies.

“The report recommends a one-time rehabilitation,” he explained, noting that the bridge is nearing the end of its functional lifespan.

With that in mind, the township will be looking to discourage traffic, particularly regular commuters using the bridge. It will also look to enforcing rules that limit crossings to one vehicle at a time, with Tucker pointing out that monitoring has revealed more than a little cheating on that front. The goal is to keep the bridge in good repair.

“We want to maintain the bridge as long as possible,” he said. “By reducing traffic on the bridge, we should expand its useful life.”

Built in 1886, the pratt truss structure is unique in the region. But the structure has been closed and repaired on numerous occasions in the past decade or so, prompting the current environmental assessment process underway to help determine its fate.

The recommendation to rehabilitate the bridge would maintain the current five-tonne load limit and keep traffic flowing in recognition of the current volumes – about 1,500 cars per day – not found at two other steel bridges earmarked for permanent closure and removal. Rehabilitation costs alone were enough to recommend mothballing steel bridges on Peel Street in Winterbourne and the Middlebrook Road boundary with Centre Wellington Township.

Woolwich is taking public comments on the Glasgow Street bridge project until March 20, with a report expected to come before council later in the spring or summer, said Tucker.

The township doesn’t have money set aside for the rehabilitation project, so that would be addressed in the 2020 or 2021 budget.

Also under review is the possibility of having the bridge designated under the Ontario Heritage Act, recognizing its historical value. Glasgow is the oldest truss bridge in the township, and the second oldest in the Grand River watershed.

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