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Old steel bridge on Middlebrook Pl. slated for removal

The old steel bridge spanning the Grand River has been closed to traffic since 2012 due to safety concerns about the deteriorating structure.

An historic steel bridge spanning the Grand River on Middlebrook Place will be removed, Woolwich council last week deeming that the most cost-effective way to deal with the deteriorating structure.

Built in the 1930s near the border with Centre Wellington Township, the bridge has been closed since 2012. Removing it will be a one-time cost of $550,000, the recommended option in an engineering report that also looked at rehabilitating the span for $650,000, plus ongoing maintenance and repairs before the bridge would eventually be mothballed due to age. Other options such as converting the bridge for pedestrian use ($900,000, plus ongoing costs) and replacing it entirely ($3.5 million) were also dismissed.

While closing the steel bridge, a nearby concrete bridge on the same road is to be replaced at a cost of $450,000, providing ongoing access to a property wedged between the two bridges.

Both projects are to be funded equally by Woolwich and Centre Wellington.

Removing the steel bridge would eliminate one of just four remaining camelback truss bridges in Waterloo Region (another on Peel Street near Winterbourne is also being considered for a similar fate).

While recognizing there are heritage issues, Ryan Tucker, an engineering project supervisor with the township, said a review found removing the structure is the best option.

“It would get it off the township’s docket so that it’s not costing anything,” he told councillors meeting January 21.

Keeping the bridge for historic purposes would require an upfront cost of $450,000, along with $150,000 every 15 years for repairs and maintenance, the environmental assessment review found.

Though the bridge is closed, people still cross it on foot, noted Jack Turner of GM Blue Plan Engineering, which carried out the study.

“Removal obviously removes the problem of people crossing a closed bridge,” he said.

There would be costs in some of the options presented to put in proper turnarounds for vehicles once the bridge was closed or removed permanently.

The old concrete bridge, built in 1932, presents a cheaper option to provide access to the property north of the river. While the report recommended repairing the structure at a cost of $300,000, Coun. Patrick Merlihan suggested it would be more cost-effective to replace the concrete bridge today for $450,000 rather than spending $300,000 and then having to replace it 20 or 30 years down the line.

In removing the steel bridge, the township would look for a potential buyer who could make use of the structure, said Tucker, noting the work is unlikely to be carried out in short order due to budget constraints. Under the just-completed review, Woolwich has up to 10 years to proceed.

Meeting Monday night, Centre Wellington council backed Woolwich’s proposal to remove the steel bridge and replace the concrete structure.

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