The historic Confederation Bridge in Smiths Falls was abruptly shut down in 2015 and since then, council has been unable to decide what to do with it. Today, council is in agreement that the bridge will be included as a project for discussion in the 2021 budget year.
Town staff presented a report in March of this year with four possible options: construct a modern combined pedestrian and vehicular bridge, a new pedestrian-only bridge, refurbish the existing bridge or clone the existing bridge.
“If it takes more time to get to the right solution, it’s what we need to do,” said Mayor Shawn Pankow.
Director of Public Works Troy Dunlop told council members at the virtual committee of the whole meeting held Monday, July 20 that an initial environmental assessment would need to be conducted at a cost of between $70,000 and $200,000.
“I have a very high level of confidence that a two-lane reconstruction would not be carried forward for further detailed review,” Dunlop said.
“We want to be well-informed of the life cycles we will get.”
Coun. Jay Brennan highlighted the importance of keeping the historic image of the bridge, but it would come at a higher cost.
“We’re going to figure out how we’re going to fix the bridge by talking to the taxpayers of smiths falls,” Coun. Brennan said. “The actual cloning of the existing bridge is a little bit cheaper and the advantage is of course a longer life span.”
“It’s a bridge and sometimes if you clone it the same way that it was it will last 100 more years and will still have the heritage aspect of what it was.”
Coun. Lorraine Allen reminded her fellow councillors of the sentimental value the bridge has to the people of Smiths Falls.
“People are anxious to have it resolved,” Allen said. “Our town is becoming so much more appealing and growing and exciting things are happening. Then you look at the bridge and it just makes you sad. It’s boarded up and it’s been like that for a long time.
“It’s time to move forward.”
Council plans to host at least two public meetings regarding the bridge in whatever capacity is possible under the current covid-19 restrictions.