The historic Coteau Street East Bridge will not be demolished for the next five years.
This comes after city council received a more detailed engineering report on Monday showing that the bridge can continue with pedestrian and vehicular traffic with a four-tonne load for about five years with regular inspections. The bridge was slated to be demolished last year.
City council passed a motion that city administration implement an inspection schedule and report back to council with any changes. The motion passed 4-3 with councillors Kim Robinson, Jamey Logan and Dawn Luhning opposed.
It was also passed that administration “do no repairs” other than inspections and minor maintenance to the bridge until it is demolished. It passed 4-3 with councillors Crystal Froese, Robinson and Luhning opposed.
The new report caused some confusion among councillors. The bridge was slated to be demolished in 2021 and city council was under the impression that the bridge needed to be closed immediately and demolished.
“As a councillor, I'm concerned that we got a report a little while ago that is the complete opposite of this one,” said Luhning.
“It makes us look pretty stupid or somebody is not giving us the right information or the right advice, in my opinion, because I was for sure on the side that Coteau Street East Bridge needed to be decommissioned and that there shouldn't be vehicular traffic going over it.”
City manager Jim Puffalt clarified that, in the first report, it said that the bridge has a lifespan of one to five years left. After the city received a petition to save the bridge, council voted to take another look.
“When this information came forward to council at that time, they wanted to have the bridge reinspected to ensure that it would last for a while, and so I think again, the report is consistent. At the time, engineering services recommended we demolish it right away because we had the funding,” Puffalt explained.
When city council approved the demolition of the bridge in 2021, the city received approval for cost-sharing with Canadian National Railways for the demolitions.
The new report from city administration showed that CN Railways’ stance hasn’t changed.
“So, CN remains interested and willing to cost sharing a demolition of the bridge. They expressed no interest in refurbishment or upgrades and appointed the city as the road authority for that responsibility at this time,” said Director of Engineering Service Bevan Harlton.
An impact assessment report was also done on the bridge, looking at the broader picture of how it functions, how many people use the bridge, consulting with key stakeholders as well as alternatives if the bridge is demolished.
Froese felt the impact assessment was an incomplete report.
“I don't believe though, that 100 per cent consultation has been done by consulting with just residents who live on the east side but not the West side. I'm thinking of all of those people who signed that petition that came before us not long ago,” she said.
The alternative that the city is looking at, for when the bridge is demolished, is remediating and paving Home Street. Harlton told city council there could be opportunities to cost share with the railway for the at-grade crossings. The capital planning for Home Street passed 6-1 with Luhning opposed.