When newly elected Carleton Place Mayor, Doug Black brought down the gavel for the first time since his inauguration, it was to convene a special meeting of council to discuss several time sensitive issues. With all members in attendance, the first item of business was a review of the central bridge project presented by town engineer Paul Knowles.
Knowles outlined several options for the bridge’s reconstruction as well as vehicle and pedestrian detours. He remarked that it was a complicated project to review due to the number of factors involved such as having the water main (currently mounted to the bridge) removed for the duration of the rebuild (estimated at 9-10 months). North bound vehicle traffic would be routed to the Gillies and Mill St bridges (commonly known as the back bridges) while southbound autos would use McNeely or Hwy 7. The north bound route would be restricted to one-way traffic for the duration. Pedestrians would be required to walk along Bell Street from Bridge Street to the next crossing downstream (a former railway bridge now converted to recreational trail use) and then walk back along either Mill or Franklin Street to get back on route. A separate temporary pedestrian bridge was considered but the $1.3M price tag took it off the list according to Knowles.
The proposed timeline would see detailed plans and approvals in place during 2019 and preliminary work starting in 2020 with the bridge’s rebuilt starting and ending in 2021. Preliminary tasks (for 2020) would include work on the Gillies Bridge to allow it to take extra traffic and the creation of a new water-main crossing at the same McArthur Island area. The total estimated costs including environmental assessment is slated to come in at $7.7M. One good piece of news found in early inspections was that the stone pillars in the river that the current bridge rests on and the shoreline stone walls were in solid condition and do not have to be replaced. Knowles noted that if this was the case the project would have to be executed over 2 construction seasons leading to longer delays and higher costs. The town also expects to recover half of the costs of installing the new water main on McArthur Island (approx $350K) from the developer who plans on building residential and commercial facilities there.
Knowles also remarked that as the proposed pedestrian detour was relatively long, council might consider instituting a temporary local shuttle to get people around. When asked for comments, councilor Theresa Fritz noted that the pedestrian issue was of concern and wanted to know of input from emergency services regarding the detours. She asked if the fire service had considered parking one of their fire-trucks on the north side of the river for quicker access. Councilor Linda Seccaspina commented on the emails she had received on the topic noting that financing was a main priority of residents who contacted her. She also spoke on the need to make things easier for pedestrians as well as drivers and local business owners with clear and constant communications from the town. She reminded everyone of the incident of a fire and bank robbery that happened on the same day back in 1983 when the bridge was out of commission for rehabilitation work and the chaos it caused. Safety was also a major concern for Seccaspina with regards to emergency travel as she said that “heart attacks don’t wait for traffic stops”.
The final decision on this report will be tabled at the first Committee of the Whole meeting to be held on December 18th.