Trail ready to close book on building second bridge

Half of survey respondents want bridge replaced but don’t
support tax hike to pay for it

A plan for replacement of the Old Trail Bridge will not be drawn up after council considered feedback from a consultation process and the jaw-dropping price tag associated with replacing the 100-year-old structure.

A final report presented to council concluded the city’s consultation process, which explored the option of replacing the Old Trail Bridge that closed permanently in the fall after an inspection revealed significant deterioration of the steel shells surrounding its piers.

Of the approximate 1,100 Trail taxpayers who filled out an online survey or brochure, about half said they’d like the crossing to be replaced, however a majority (nearly 650 of the respondents) did not support the tax hike.

“More people would like to see a new bridge but when it comes to asking them would they be willing to pay more taxes in terms of a new bridge, then it changes slightly and, in fact, more people are against it than for it,” said Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

To construct a preferred vehicular bridge, residents would fork over about $100 per $100,000 of assessed property value for a 30-year borrowing period.

The steep cost of $20 million is projected to be nearly $41 million when all is complete, which city administrator David Perehudoff said is over three times more than any other project the city has ever taken on since he’s been in his role.

“That’s one of council’s major concerns is that we are now one of the lower debt cities in the province and we would be getting up to close to the 50 per cent of our borrowing capacity,” Bogs agreed.

“That would mean if we have any other major emergency or major project of some sort, that would really max our borrowing capacity and no city can afford that.”

All signs point to shelving plans for a secondary crossing, said Bogs, who still intends to push the provincial government for financial support

for a potential new bridge while lobbying them to pay for at least 50 per cent of the $5-million demolition of the Old Bridge, which they owned for about 50 years.

The city feels that there was a sufficient response from residents and won’t spend $15,000 on a statistically valid survey nor will they bring an option to referendum in November.

The “loose” survey explored residents’ opinions based on an in-depth city report, which compared the projected costs of building a full replacement bridge for $20 million or creating a pedestrian suspension bridge for $6.5 million.

While about 420 people did not support any financial investment in a new crossing, the majority in favour (about 375) felt the city should build a full replacement rather than a pedestrian crossing.

Though Trail looked into restoring the old crossing due to a strong sentimental response from citizens, the engineering company Buckland and Taylor Ltd. concluded that the projected $10 million to expand the bridge life for 15 years was too expensive of a short-term fix.

Many residents who filled out the questionnaire felt that Trail needs a secondary bridge in the event of an emergency, especially with Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital located on the east side of the Columbia River.

But others said that a strong response plan would send crews in action just fine with the four-lane Victoria Street Bridge and if all else fails, a boat or helicopter would also be an emergency option.

While the current council has closed the book on a new bridge, it doesn’t mean that the question couldn’t come back to residents in the future. But perhaps the next bridge built in Trail will be located further down stream to match economic growth, said Bogs.

“Many, many years ago there was a proposal to put a bridge all the way down where the Waneta Dam is and, of course, that would open up the whole strip of land from Casino to Trail on that side.”