Crossing the Columbia River near the south end of town by this time next year is a vision that will probably go up in smoke after a petition opposed to the pedestrian/pipe bridge has garnered enough signatures to grind the project to halt.
According to one petitioner, 10 per cent of Trail electors, or 573 residents, have already signed the petition objecting to building a multi-million dollar crossing upstream from the Old Trail Bridge without a public referendum.
That number of signatories is enough to put the project on hold, although the issue can be put to Trail voters during the upcoming civic election.
“I think we are over our number already and we have lots of petitioners out there,” Norm Gabana told the Trail Times Sunday afternoon. “Ninety per cent of the people we are approaching are signing and today we have people of stature out there petitioning.”
Gabana’s group has until 4 p.m. on Friday to present the signatures to the city hall and stop a $5 million loan authorization bylaw meant to fund the construction of a walking platform over a pipe bridge structure that would house a new regional sewer line.
“The public is entitled to petition the city’s intent to adopt the bylaw,” said Mayor Dieter Bogs in a Monday news release. “However, we are very concerned about the false information that is being provided to the community by these canvassers,” he continued. “We’ve invested a lot of money, time and effort into this project as it is an essential component of the city’s downtown revitalization plan and a crucial structure for the city’s secondary waterline and sewer interceptor.”
The news of a pipe bridge delay is disappointing for Robert Cacchioni, a Trail councillor who also serves as the city’s regional director and as a member on the regional district sewer committee.
After working on the project for three years, along with regional sewer partners in Rossland and Warfield, he said when analyzing all feasible options, the pipe bridge was determined to be the most cost effective way to modernize the sewer line, loop the city’s water lines and improve Internet transmission on the east side of Trail through the use of fibre optic conduit.
“We have an opportunity here that will never come about again,” Cacchioni said. “The whole concept is to partner with a group (sewer partners) and provide something for the entire area and not just the City of Trail,” he continued. “To partner with another government agency and reduce overall cost and with no impact to the Trail taxpayer is a once in a lifetime opportunity and might now be a missed opportunity.
The sewer committee has approved funding in 2014 to get a new utility line from one side of the river to the other, confirmed John McLean, chief administrative officer for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary.
“The City of Trail, who owns the bridge, has indicated to us that their engineers have recommended decommissioning the Old Bridge,” noted MacLean. “Hanging a line under the old bridge is not an option unless something changes.
“The issue is not the line, it is the bridge it is hanging from.”
Gabana, a former Trail councillor maintains the city hasn’t finished its homework on the Old Bridge’s rehabilitation possibilities or made the most cost effective decision about how to funnel untreated sewage across the Columbia River.
He said after conferring with Redwood Engineering, a member of the Trail-based firm backed up his idea that a new sewer interceptor line can be re-routed from the Old Bridge to the new bridge and suspended across the river that way.
The Old Bridge could be refurbished to become a walking bridge instead of building a new structure, according to Gabana.
“It they can’t save the Old Bridge then they have to come up with another way to reroute the sewer line,” he added.
Directional drilling, laying the pipe on the riverbed or the construction of a pipe bridge are all options with a plus and minus, said MacLean, adding that the pipe bridge will be discussed in detail at Tuesday’s sewer committee meeting.
A report on the Old Trail Bridge completed by the city three years ago, summarizes a 2011 public consultation process that concluded the majority of survey respondents said no to a tax increase for the construction of a new bridge.
Additionally, the report details a 2010 annual inspection of the bridge that found significant erosion and wear of the steel piers and struts that support the weight of the structure.
Prior to closing the bridge, the city invested $935,000 over 10 years, and at least another $10 million is required for repairs that would only extend the bridge’s lifespan 10 to 15 years, according to the public report.
Spending that much taxpayer money with no end result is not an option, explained Cacchioni.
“We’ve been told by the primary bridge engineers that we could in fact redo the old bridge for $10 to $20 million dollars for maybe 10 years,” he said. “Who in their right mind on council or any kind of business man would invest a million a year for 10 years with no guarantee beyond that,” Cacchioni questioned.
“I could never support it, you’d bankrupt the town.”