ELORA – Centre Wellington will not be asking Wellington County to review its planned replacement of Elora’s Badley Bridge.
On May 27 council defeated a motion from councillor Kirk McElwain asking county council to “review its planned replacement of Badley Bridge and consider either repair or replacement with a structure more suitable to the ‘small town feel’ and heritage surroundings of Ontario’s most beautiful village.”
McElwain said rehabilitation and bridge style were never really options presented during consultation sessions.
“There were presentations on the county road standard as the only option with some consultation upon how many spans it would have,” McElwain said.
“During these public sessions there were lineups of residents protesting the proposal, obviously to no avail.”
However, Mayor Kelly Linton, who is also Wellington County warden, said 16 proposed solutions to the structurally unsound Badley Bridge were presented in January 2017, and five selected for detailed analysis.
“The shortlisted alternatives included the rehabilitation of the existing bridge as well as truss bridge alternatives,” he said.
All of the environmental requirements for the new bridge have been completed Linton said.
Another required public meeting is set for June, after which all conditions will be met and the county can proceed with detailed design and go to tender. Because the bridge is a county project, Centre Wellington council does not have any decision making power, Linton said.
“Given your prior experience in dealing with the county on various matters, do you believe that county will be receptive to this last-minute request?” asked councillor Ian MacRae.
“If not what are you trying to achieve here and why are we misleading the public in thinking to pass this motion will have any impact.”
McElwain responded, “I’m not naive enough to think that this motion is going to change a damn thing at county to be honest, but if council endorses this motion, and takes it forward to county, at least they may rethink it a little bit at the county roads department,” he said.
If the motion passed the request would have gone to the county roads committee and then to county council for a final decision.
McElwain also cited fluctuating costs over the years, noting the original rehabilitation cost was $6.87 million and the original cost of replacement was $4.5 million. Now the rehabilitation cost is $14.5 million and the replacement is $7.5 million.
“The public obviously has questions about where this $14.5 million magically came from,” McElwain said.
Councillors Stephen Kitras and Bob Foster also expressed concerns about the changes in cost.
Linton said the price tag is typical when more and more detailed assessment is available.
McElwain also raised concern about the “cement slab county road standard” that will replace the metal Badley Bridge built in 1953 and widely considered to be an “iconic gateway to Elora.”
“It makes no difference how much lipstick you put on that thing,” he said. “It won’t have the same impact on visitors as the current Badley Bridge.”
Linton said the new bridge will offer wider sidewalks, two new bike lanes and expanded observation decks overlooking the Grand River. The bridge will also have enhanced lighting, wider traffic lanes, limestone gateway piers and historic features paying homage to the current metal structure.
“Nothing like a typical bridge that you see that the county builds out in the rural areas,” Linton said.
Steven VanLeeuwen said council needs to keep the decision in context.
“We’re not making that decision,” he said of the bridge style.
He added the decision council is making is whether to send the county a letter saying “we’re not happy with the decision.”
Councillor Neil Dunsmore said the question is whether Wellington County did its due diligence on research and planning.
“We have to put our faith in the county council that they did the work and we can express our concerns to them as councillors and leave it at that,” he said.
Linton said the bridge needs to be attractive, but most important is safety.
McElwain’s motion was defeated in a 4-3 vote with McElwain, Kitras and Foster in favour and Linton, Dunsmore, MacRae and VanLeeuwen opposed.