Council votes in favour of pedestrian crossing to replace Confederation Bridge

Confederation Bridge Smiths Falls
Confederation Bridge. Photo credit Emilie Must
Posted on: January 17, 2023

During Monday night’s Committee of the Whole meeting, Smiths Falls’ town council received a report from Director of Public Works and Utilities Paul McMunn. This report included the finalization of the environmental assessment study of the long-closed historic Confederation Bridge, and requested council to make a decision on whether the bridge should be removed, replaced as a vehicular crossing, or replaced as a pedestrian crossing. 

This report drew wide response from all members of council.

Of the four bridge options presented by engineering firm McIntosh Perry, the most economical option is a 2-span truss pedestrian bridge, estimated to cost approximately $1,220,000. This is the option staff recommended, although, McMunn noted “there is some local interest in a vehicular crossing.” A single-lane vehicular crossing is estimated to cost approximately twice the price at $2,400,000.

Lisa Marshall from McIntosh Perry noted that in the existing design, piers and abutments are being replaced. If any of them can be saved/used, costs could further be reduced.

Councilor Stephen Robinson voiced his opinion in favour of a replacement with a new vehicular and pedestrian bridge

“The cost, while high, is not going to get lower the longer it takes to resolve,” he said. “I’m asking for council’s support for this, as we already have the public’s support.”

Councilor Dawn Quinn agreed. “The people in the town of Smiths Falls have spoken; they would like the bridge back there,” she said emphatically. “Centennial Park is a gorgeous park. …We do need the bridge back. The park is a great gathering spot. They love to be there. To me, this is what we need.”

Mayor Shawn Pankow thanked staff for their report, and asked council to consider what kind of community and experience they are trying to create. “A place for people. An environment that contributes to the health and well-being of our community. Do we want or need cars driving through our park?”  He continued, “Can we justify a $2.4 million dollar expense when we have an infrastructure deficit? In the end, we need to ask ourselves why.” He pointed out that 60% of the cost of the pedestrian bridge could be covered by an Active Transportation grant.

Councilors McGuire and Miller agreed with Mayor Pankow, although McGuire questioned the need for any crossing there at all.

“It’s clear to me that a pedestrian bridge is the best option,” said Councilor Jennifer Miller, “It will make our waterfront more enticing for residents and tourists, and it’s less expensive … Having the bridge out of commission for so long has trained us all to take new routes.”

Councilor Jay Brennan was disappointed that council wasn’t unanimous in support of replacing the vehicular crossing. “The bridge has been closed for 7 years. I’ve been advocating for it to be replaced. I thought I was successful in the election [and] I ran on this. I am in favour of a vehicular bridge with pedestrian features.”

Councilor Peter McKenna was also in support of a pedestrian bridge going forward, but acknowledged the tone of the meeting. “None of us like to have council split like this. 

Sometimes wants and needs are different, and the need for a vehicular bridge isn’t warranted.

I’m in favour of a pedestrian bridge.”

Article by Janelle Labelle

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *