Centre Wellington will finally replace 8th Line bridge closed in 2003

While the re­ces­sion has had dire consequences for many people, Centre Well­ington council noted a major break when it came to replac­ing a bridge that was closed six years ago.

In a special council meeting on Monday after its regular committee of the whole meet­ing, councillors voted 3-1 to award the tender for the bridge to Drexler Construction Limit­ed, of Rockwood, for $2.5-million.

The work will include the removal and reconstruction of the bridge at Wilson’s Flats in old Pilkington, about a half kilo­metre north of County Road 21.

The work includes about 500 metres of road work, approaching the bridge from either side, and the length of the bridge is 90 metres.

Nine firms bid for the work, with the high bid coming from a Concord company at $3.6-million.

The township received a grant for the project when it was first proposed, under the Canada Ontario Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund. Each level of government pro­vided a third of the then esti­mated total cost of the bridge of $1.8-million.

Councillors noted that they can use the $600,000 each from the provincial and federal governments, but local tax­payers will pay the re­mainder of the extra costs.

Treasurer Wes Snarr noted dryly that when that application was sent in, the township’s engineering firm, Triton Engi­neering, had been challenged by the other two levels of gov­ernment for overestimating the cost.

The bridge has had an inter­esting history, including the night a driver missed the ap­proach to the narrow structure and shot over the top of a barrier, landing in a tree.

The bridge was in very poor condition and efforts – first by old Pilkington council and later Centre Wellington council – to have the county take over the road and repair it came to naught.

Council rejected doing the bridge over a year ago because the price had been estimated at $3.8-million, even though an earlier Centre Wellington coun­cil had promised area farmers and other users that it would be replaced.

“We got an excellent deal,” said Mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj on Monday.

She noted the price of reinforced steel has dropped by over 50% in this round of esti­mates. Similarly, the price of asphalt dropped about 20%. She added that just about every material, including gravel, was cheaper this time around.

Only councillor Walt Visser voted against replacing the bridge. He explained later in the meeting that it was too ex­pensive a year ago, and he had not changed his mind, despite the lower price.

“It’s been closed all this time, and that’s an awful lot of money for a bridge,” he said. He added he received only a handful of complaints over the years about the bridge being closed.

For a while, when the Pilkington and Woolwich Townline Road bridge was closed, it was the only route travelers could take over the Grand River between Elora and the Elmira to Guelph highway.

Ross-Zuj said working through the process for build­ing a bridge on a national heri­tage river included talks last year with the Six Nations because there will be a pier in the river. She said that group lays claim to the river bed, but working with it for this bridge was a cordial ex­perience.

Denis Hollands, of Triton Engi­neering, also noted there will be a great deal of road work done, including build­ing up the road, possibly as high as four metres in places approaching the bridge, and the road will also be realigned.

And, he said, the current parking area at the west side of the 8th Line is actually private property. When the project is completed, parking will be on the east side of the road, on Grand River Conservation Auth­ority property.

The parking is needed be­cause Wilson’s Flats is, among other things, a very popular place for fly fishermen, and also with kayakers and canoers.

The road had also been a major route from the northern part of Wellington County to Guelph and also to Kitchener-Waterloo.

Hollands said people in Elora will likely see a significant decrease in traffic once the bridge is built and the road reopened.

Councillors Bob Foster and Ron Hallman were absent.