Petition brings Trail bridge plans to a halt

With twice the necessary number of signatures gathered, the proposed walking bridge can now be brought to a vote during November elections.

Trail council’s vision of a second crossing over the Columbia River upstream from the Old Trail Bridge lost its footing last week after about 20 per cent of Trail voters signed a petition against construction of a pedestrian walkway.

The group opposed to the walking bridge garnered almost double the signatures required to grind the project to a halt before handing over a stack of signed petitions to city hall Friday afternoon.

“The premise is that the piers on the old bridge can be repaired at the same cost as the walking bridge,” said Ron Joseph, a Trail resident and petition spearheader. “But there is no will to repair the old bridge, they want a new bridge.”

More than 1,200 people signed on to stop the city from borrowing $5 million required to build the Columbia River Pipe/Pedestrian Bridge at the south end of town.

Through the alternative approval process, the city advertised its intent to take out the loan twice in April, which gave electors 30 days from the second notice to petition the project and collect signatures from 10 per cent, or 573 Trail voters.

Pending a thorough review of the petition forms to confirm the validity of signatures, it’s safe to say there are over 573 valid signatures, Michelle McIsaac, Trail’s corporate administrator, told the Trail Times Monday.

Over 20 businesses were willing to put the petition on their front counters for customers to review and sign, according to petition organizer Norm Gabana.

“In discussion with the residents who circulated petitions door-to-door it was unanimous about the acceptance of wanting to have a vote,” he added.

Now, with an estimated $5,000 cost, a future pedestrian crossing can be brought to Trail voters during the Nov. 15 municipal elections.

“In terms of next steps, council will decide whether to proceed to a vote on the borrowing bylaw,” said McIsaac. “In which case the bylaw would be submitted to the Inspector of Municipalities’ first for approval; voting would be scheduled once the inspector’s approval is received.”

Reasons for signing the petition varied but at the crux was the unfinished business of the Old Trail Bridge, a 103-year-old structure deemed unsafe and closed to vehicles and pedestrians in 2011.

“My hope is that council will follow the similar process that is being undertaken to review the Pattullo Bridge in Vancouver and to take time to review all the options in public,” said Gabana. “Before any consideration can be given to the demolition of this bridge an analysis will have to be made of the stability of the piers,” he continued. “So why not do it now so we don’t end up in an embarrassing situation down the road.”

The city has considered 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 multi-million dollar bridge construction.

Prior to closing the bridge, the City of Trail 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 the city’s report.

Trail council opted to build a foot-traffic only bridge that would have no impact on 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 call the Federal Gas Tax revenue.