City outlines bridge details

There have been a number of letters in the paper recently dealing with the Old Trail Bridge replacement.

The city has made a concerted effort to provide the public with information on the topic and has most recently sent out an informational brochure. The response to these efforts has been very positive and the city appreciates the public’s interest and feedback given the significance of the project being proposed.

It is hoped that the following will provide further clarity in the context of some of the issues being repeatedly raised:

• At this time, council does not have a “preferred” option with respect to replacing the bridge and the purpose of the public consultation process is to inform the public and provide an opportunity for feedback. council will consider this feedback before making a decision on how to proceed.

• For a significant project such as the one being proposed, debt is a conventional method of financing given that is spreads or matches the payment with the use of the structure. Interest is effectively the economic rent paid for the money up front and interest rates currently remain very low.

The advantage to the city is that the debt payment becomes a fixed cost and when consideration is given to inflation or the reduced purchasing power of the dollar over time along with growth in the assessment base, the cost of the annual debt payment actually decreases over time from a real dollar perspective.

• The estimates for construction have been provided by an engineering company that has overseen the construction of dozens of bridges and the estimates include necessary contingencies in order to reduce the risk of any unexpected overrun. Further detail on these estimates will be made available shortly.

• If either project does proceed, a loan authorization bylaw is required and council has committed to seek approval through referendum. The bylaw will provide for a maximum amount the city can borrow and therefore the city would have to find alternate revenue sources if there were any cost overruns that had to be dealt with that could not be funded under the authority of the borrowing bylaw.

• The city owns all of the property required to site the new bridge where it is shown on the conceptual drawings, aligning with Main Street in East Trail.

• The cost estimate to decommission the old bridge is $3 million if tendered with the construction of a new bridge. If a decision is made to proceed with the new bridge project, the city will pursue funding assistance for the construction and under either option would make every effort to address the bridge decommissioning as part of the total net budget without adding additional cost.

If new construction does not proceed, council will have to consider the options and develop a demolition and financing plan, including discussing this with the province, which owned and operated the bridge into the 1960s.

The estimated cost to decommission as a standalone project is upwards of $5 million.

The current utility lines on the bridge that are owned by Terasen and the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary will have to be relocated before any action can be taken.

If the borrowing is approved, the debt payment for the bridge would be funded as part of the City of Trail’s annual budget.

Many people have indicated that a new bridge would provide a regional benefit but the Trail taxpayers will be funding the cost directly should the decision be made to proceed unless other communities volunteer to financially participate.

This bridge would form part of the city’s infrastructure inventory and be an ongoing city responsibility.

With respect to need, it is up to each person to determine how the second bridge impacts them both individually and from a community perspective. The assessment of value or benefit the crossing provides should be compared to the additional property tax charge or cost that will result and the collective value should presumably be greater or equal to the cost for the project to proceed.

Council is therefore looking to the public to effectively guide the decision as part of a democratic and transparent process.

More information with respect to the project and the implications can be found on the City of Trail’s website (www.trail.ca).

In addition public meetings will be held in April where members of the public are welcome to attend and ask any specific questions they might have.

All of the information received through the consultation process will be compiled and presented to the council and the public.

Council will then determine if they want to conduct a statistically valid survey before proceeding further, if they have enough information to advance a loan authorization bylaw to referendum or if they want to abandon the proposals at this time.

David Perehudoff, chief administrative officer

Trail