A new pathway across the Columbia River might only be a hop, skip and a jump away now that Trail council authorized a city loan of almost $5 million toward construction of a pedestrian bridge at the south end of town.
The city has been considering second crossing options since a 2011 public consultation revealed that Trail residents supported a vehicular crossing but naysayed the associated property tax hike related to a multimillion dollar bridge construction.
Instead, Trail council opted to build a foot-traffic only bridge that will not raise property taxes because the city’s portion of the $9.8 million project will be paid off over 25 years through long-term infrastructure funding called the Federal Gas Tax revenue.
“We have to build a bridge,” noted Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs, after the loan authorization bylaw was given three readings during Monday’s council meeting. “We don’t have a choice anymore.”
Bogs was referring to the aging sewer line which hangs on the Old Bridge.
The project’s priority was upped by the city and its regional sewer partners in Rossland and Warfield after a pipe burst underneath the out-of-service bridge in 2012, and a large amount of liquid sewage seeped into the Columbia River.
The structure will house a new regional waterline, sewer main and fibre optic conduit but only Trail will cover the costs associated with dual purpose walkway, which will allow pedestrian crossing and add visual appeal to the utility lines.
Assuming the city finances the $5 million loan over that term, the annual debt payment is estimated to be $346,650, explained David Perehudoff, Trail’s chief administrative officer (CAO). Trail currently receives a yearly gas tax payment of $341,750, with future revenues forecast to increase, he added.
Additionally, the city estimates that the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) will fork over about $4 million to cover the cost of attaching the new utility lines to the structure.
“Given that the RDKB must proceed with the pipe bridge, the enhancement to add the walkway and city utilities can only be done as part of this joint venture and is a one-time opportunity,” said Perehudoff.
The project is included in the regional district’s 2014 financial plan, confirmed John MacLean, CAO for the regional district.
“There is still a lot of work to be done to finalize the costs and negotiate a formal agreement with the City of Trail,” he said. “We’ll proceed on the basis that we will be moving forward in a timely manner.”
However, before the project can break ground this summer, Trail taxpayers have one more opportunity to oppose the Columbia River Utilities/Pedestrian Bridge bylaw through an alternate approval process.
Meaning, the city is required to advertise its intent to proceed with the loan twice in a local publication, which gives electors 30 days from the second notice to petition the project and carry the matter to referendum.
“This would add considerable time to the process and may cause concern for the regional district given the urgency to remove the sewer line,” said Perehudoff. “The current line has leaked twice in the last year and any sort of significant failure would be a major concern.”
The 300-metre walking bridge is expected to be complete date in September 2015.
The crossing will connect Trail from an area near the Groutage Avenue parking lot to McQuarrie Street in East Trail.