Stephen Vance, Staff
Citing safety concerns, the Municipality of Meaford announced on Friday (January 29) that it will be closing three rural bridges effective immediately.
Fraser’s Bridge on Concession B over Johnson Creek (Bridge no. 10), and the twin bridges on the Holland-Sydenham Town-line over Walter’s Falls have been closed as a result of a recommendation from the ongoing Bridge State of the Infrastructure Report.
The municipality has issued notices to residents who live in close proximity to the bridges, and detour signage has been erected to direct traffic around the closures.
Fraser’s Bridge was built more than 90 years ago in 1925. It consists of a single span, concrete T-beam superstructure with a total deck length of ten metres, and overall width of six metres. The superstructure is supported by concrete abutments, and provides a nine metre span over the creek, and a five metre wide driving platform.
The twin bridges on the Holland-Sydenham town-line were constructed in 1960, and each consist of a single span, concrete arch culvert with a total deck length of 4.9 metres, spanning Walter’s Creek.
In September of 2015, Meaford’s council was presented with a report outlining the state of the bridges and culverts throughout the municipality during a special education session.
Brian Wickenheiser, from engineering firm Ainley Group, told council on September 28 that the municipality currently owns and maintains 86 bridges and culverts in excess of 3 metres: 22 in the former Town of Meaford, 26 in Sydenham, and 35 in St. Vincent.
According to Wickenheiser, the municipality will have some expensive repair and replacement bills in the coming years. Bridges and culverts identified in the ‘Urgent’ category will require $6.4 million worth of work within one year, while in the one- to two-year time period another $2.7 million will need to be spent. The amount required climbs drastically in the three- to five-year and six- to ten-year time periods, when another $22 million worth of work will need to be completed. In total, more than $31 million in required bridge and culvert work will be required over the next ten years.
All bridges and culverts are inspected every two years. Some of the worst bridges and culverts are showing signs of a lack of a preventative maintenance program, while others are the victim of age.
“Most bridges and culverts are designed to last 75 years,” Wickenheiser told council in September, however without a proper maintenance plan that can drop to as little as 40 years, according to Wickenheiser.
“Given the current lack of maintenance programs on these structures, there will be a spike in the cost of maintenance until it’s all caught up,” noted Wickenheiser.
Meaford’s councillors took the news in stride, knowing that infrastructure needs will fast become the largest headache for municipalities across the province and beyond.
“I’ve done some very fast math here,” said Deputy Mayor Harley Greenfield. “It looks like, according to your figures, we’ve got a little over $31 million (in work to do) in ten years. We have 444 municipalities in Ontario. If $31 (million) is the average (per municipality) across Ontario, we’re going to need $13.8 billion invested in bridges. Premier Wynne’s 50 percent sale of Ontario Hydro isn’t going to go too damn far to help us out.”
Wickenheiser noted that some money might be able to be saved by removing some of those structures rather than repairing or replacing them. According to Wickenheiser, seven or eight of the bridges and culverts on the list could possibly be removed, pending further study, saving as much as $6 million.
Meaford Treasurer Darcy Chapman reminded council at that September meeting that the news of the current state of bridges and culverts might not be encouraging, but it is a reality of the coming infrastructure crisis.
“The intention of this (report) was to bring everybody up to speed. It certainly isn’t meant to scare council or the public, but just to recognize that we’re going to have to deal with this infrastructure whether we want to or not.”
The municipality said that the bridges will remain closed indefinitely until further notice.
Further information on the bridge closures can be found at www.meaford.ca/roadclosures, including maps of the affected areas and recommended detour routes.