In 2019, the health outlook for a deteriorating piece of local infrastructure was so grim there was talk in municipal circles that it might be more financially responsible to put the bridge out of service rather than pay to repair — or worse, replace it.
"Four or five or six years ago, it looked like we were getting ready to replace or remove the bridge," located north of the intersection of Lakeshore Drive and Pinewood Park Drive on Lamorie Street, said Coun. Chris Mayne during a March capital budget meeting, "but the engineering studies have given us promising returns."
See related: Lamorie Street bridge continues to deteriorate, City to study its options
See also: Lamorie St. bridge closing for inspection
Towards Sustainable Infrastructure (TSI) Inc was awarded an $87,000 contract to complete the detailed inspection of the structure. "The assessment came back and it is in better shape than we thought," agreed Adam Lacombe, an engineer with the City of North Bay.
There are apparent repairs needed but Lacombe stated a line for $245,000 in this budget and a total of $775,000 for the rehabilitation work will "certainly lead to 10 to 15 years of life for the bridge before something major is needed."
The City is looking at tendering the project in April with construction to begin in July. It will include the replacement of the existing asphalt surface and waterproofing system; the replacement of the existing railing system on the bridge and approaches; concrete patchwork and crack sealing of the bridge deck; and the replacement of expansion joint seals.
See: City's annual $27.4M asset funding shortfall 'shocking' — King
According to the City of North Bay's Corporate Asset Management Plan 2022, the "estimated replacement cost of the City’s core assets is $2.1 billion which requires $49 million in annual life cycle investments. The City of North Bay is planning to invest on average $21.6 million annually; thereby, leaving an annual funding shortfall of $27.4 million."
In 2019, Mayne, then serving as the chair of council's infrastructure and operations committee noted, “It is a bridge that is still well used in the community, but the study will determine the viability of its ongoing operation and potential costs for rehabilitation.
"Certainly, for the businesses in the area, it is important. And if we’re trying to encourage economic development in that industrial park, it is used as another access to the highway so there is value to it. The challenge is what value do you place on that additional service?”
Coun. Mac Bain was of the opinion then it was not worth pouring millions of dollars into the bridge.
“This project has been in and out of our capital forecast a number of times. The last time I believe was three or four years ago and it was $9 million to replace the bridge back then. And yes, there are vehicles that do transition over that bridge, but it is not $9 million worth."
It would be a project council would be reluctant to take on even with partner funding from the provincial and federal governments, even with all three levels of government each paying one-third of the cost, said Mayne then. He observed closing the bridge would require rerouting traffic down Booth Road.
This route would have also forced the trucks onto Lakeshore Drive, past Sunset Park School and the future home of the community and recreation centre and through two proposed roundabouts.
With files from Linda Holmes