After rejecting a staff recommendation for use of an unexpected provincial grant of $642,347 at their April 29 meeting, council had second thoughts, and they changed course at their May 13 meeting.
On April 29, councillors were presented with a proposal from staff to use the funds from the unexpected provincial grant to fund solar power installations, establish site plan guidelines, undertake an extensive traffic count survey, develop an updated state of the infrastructure (SOTI) for bridges, develop a transportation master plan, installation of a new work order management system, and to establish a community safety and well-being plan.
Council rejected the staff recommendation, and gave initial approval to instead use the grant funds to enhance the resurfacing of Concession A by using asphalt as opposed to the planned tar and chip surface treatment, and to use the remainder of the funds to replace the currently closed bridges 21 and 22 on the Holland-Sydenham Townline.
At their May 13 meeting however, council reconsidered some of the recommendations made by staff for use of the grant funds.
While all councillors appeared determined to address bridges 21 and 22, the realization that the project could not be completed in time to meet the requirements of the grant funds gave them room to approve some of the projects recommended by staff while at the same time making clear that the two bridges on the Holland-Sydenham Townline would remain a priority. Council was told that the municipality is getting closer to finalizing a boundary road agreement with Chatsworth. Nothing can be done with the bridges until an agreement is in place, and Chatsworth also has to agree to fund the bridge replacements.
After an exhaustive debate, council ultimately agreed in a 4-3 vote to use the grant funds to conduct an extensive traffic count survey ($152,000), to develop an updated Bridge State of the Infrastructure (SOTI) report ($50,000), and to develop a transportation master plan ($75,000). The remaining $365,347 will be used to for upgraded surface treatment for Concession A, partially fund the rehabilitation of Shields Bridge, which was to have been fully funded with property tax dollars, and part of the funds that were to be used for Shields Bridge will be put in reserve for bridges 21 and 22.
The traffic count survey will give staff and council a better handle on the 400 centre-line kilometres of roads comprised of approximately 536 road sections within the municipality.
“The foundation of the Municipality’s response to road maintenance standards is an accurate traffic count database, recording traffic as Average Daily Traffic (ADT) for each road section. The ADT is then measured against the road section speed limit to determine the appropriate road classification, which then determines the Municipality’s response time to addressing summer and winter road deficiencies,” staff advised in their report to council.
The Bridge State of the Infrastructure (SOTI) Update will be used to develop “a planning document that will highlight all types of bridge construction in the Province of Ontario and the conditions for best use of these structure types. The study will look at conventional structures including cast-in-place, slab, beam/girder, concrete boxes, steel culverts and will also explore other less standard designs including but not limited to arch or truss designs, wooden and fiberglass bridges, bailey bridges etc.” The study will incorporate updated OSIM inspections and traffic count data to determine bridge use and appropriate structure types.
The Transportation Master Plan will establish the vision for transportation services, assess existing transportation system performance, forecast future travel demand, and will define actions and policies to address road, bridge, and drainage needs within the rural areas and focus on active transportation needs (sidewalks, potential bike lanes, etc.) in the urbanized areas.
The expectation of the plan will be to look at the entire transportation system to determine if roads need to be upgraded in surface type (from gravel to surface treatment or pavement) based on current or future traffic demands.
According to the staff report, “The current Bridge and Structure SOTI plan shows the need to permanently close a number of structures predominantly in the former southern Sydenham area. Although each structure would have an Environmental Assessment (EA) completed to determine the preferred solution (prior to any permanent closure), the EA process looks at each structure individually and not within the context of the broader transportation system. As well, the bridges are slated for potential closure over the next 15 years at various times as determined by the degradation of the structures.”