Stop studying and just fix the old bridge

The city has sent out a survey about the old bridge.

Assuming the average house in Trail is worth about $200,000, we’ve been given the following options:

A) Support a complete replacement of the old bridge and see our taxes increase by about $200 per year for the next 30 years.

B) Or support a new pedestrian bridge and see our taxes go up about $60 per year for 30 years.

Where is Plan C?

Fix the damn bridge.

All this paranoia that the bridge is falling makes me think engineers and lawyers were hatched from the same egg.

Some history for newcomers to Trail: The “old” bridge – so named and not to be confused with the four-lane “new” bridge – was built in 1912 and extends 682 feet across the river. It was closed to traffic in 2000 due to concerns over “significant section losses in the corroded bottom chords of the steel trusses,” according to statements on the website of the Vancouver engineering firm, Buckland and Taylor.

After detailed inspections, the city chose to repair/strengthen the truss bottom chords and replace the aging timber sidewalk. The bridge reopened in November 2001.

Buckland and Taylor stated the revitalized bridge was “expected to serve the community for many years to come.”

I’m sorry, but “many years to come” means “decades” in my vocabulary – not less than ten years.

Can we get a refund?

Surely the old bridge could be improved to the degree that people could walk or bicycle across it.

I only had to Google for five minutes to find dozens of communities throughout North America that turned old disused vehicular and railway bridges into perfectly fine pedestrian bridges. To name a few:

– Fredericton, N.B., turned an old rail bridge into a walking bridge and named it after a local advocate for walking trails.

– Chattanooga, Tenn., has an old 2,376-foot-long truss bridge spanning the Tennessee River was closed to vehicular traffic in 1978, and was turned into a pedestrian bridge.

– In Poughkeepsie, N.Y., a two-rail bridge built in 1889 was built into a pedestrian bridge which is now listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

My husband thinks if we are going to spend the money anyway, build something unique – a tourist attraction. For instance, in River, Ky., the community built the longest plastic-deck bridge in the world – 420 feet.

The world’s longest elevated suspension bridge hovers 212 feet above the Hudson River in New York State.

Surely we can think up something that will get people to drive out of their way to look at it. I’m not talking Bridge Over the River Kwai here. But what about bridge to the world’s longest covered stairs? Longest suspension bridge (if built at an angle.)

It irks me that we are talking about spending money on a second river crossing when we’ve got so many other unresolved issues in Trail. I mean, how many times do we study, complete surveys and vote for a new library/museum?

How many more generations will come and go without a skateboard park?

And how many more facilitated committees will harp about downtown Trail and why council isn’t doing something to fix it?

We could have had a civic centre with some real interest on the river by now – a dream that will likely never happen as what would cost $5 million a few years ago will run about $25 million now.

I can’t understand why Castlegar was able to build a new city hall and why Nelson got a fabulous new museum.

And here we sit, with a library squeezed between a hockey rink and a basketball court, and a closet for our museum. It’s an embarrassment.

What will really make me stick my finger down my throat is if after all this surveying, the city decides to pay for another study.

We’ve been collecting studies for the past 20 years and I have a filing cabinet full of them. And I’d like to see one – just one – in which recommendations were followed through.

And the bridge?

By all means, please, fill out the survey – write what you really think in the margins.

You know what will happen if council doesn’t get those surveys back – we’ll be paying for another study. The study will be shelved in a warehouse next to the Ark of the Covenant and that will be the end of it.

Come on, people. Get a voice!

Trail resident Lana Rodlie is a former Times reporter