Big costs for Finlayson Island bridges

The south bridge is still safe to drive on, and the north bridge is still safe to walk on

Numbers regarding the north and south bridges to and from Finlayson Island have emerged, and Battleford town council has important, upcoming decisions about the expensive project.

This summer, Associated Engineering completed a comprehensive inspection of the bridges and publicly presented findings to council Monday.

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According to an administrative report by John Enns-Wind, the bridges were constructed in 1905 and were “part of the original alignment of Highway 16, connecting Battleford and North Battleford.”

“The Town took ownership of the bridges from Saskatchewan Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure in 2003. Prior to taking ownership in 2003, the bridge was rehabilitated to provide an additional 15 years of service life.”

Recent work by Associated Engineering included a visual inspection and more detailed inspection work involving a manlift. Associated Engineering also performed load testing to see if the current eight tonne limit “was still appropriate for the bridge.”

The inspection showed the bridges are considered to be in poor condition. Associated Engineering structural engineer Stephen Chiasson said that’s nothing new “and has been in our reporting for years.”

According to a structural condition rating, which includes evaluating only the structural components of the bridge itself, the north and south bridges is at 27.8 per cent.

Ratings shouldn’t be confused with school test scores.

“A bridge that has a structural condition rating of 50 per cent is a bridge that really doesn’t have any significant issues with it,” Chiasson said. “It’s a bridge that just requires ongoing maintenance, not a bridge that has any significant items on it that need to be repaired right away.”

Associated Engineering presented four options regarding the future of the bridges to council: status quo (keeping the north bridge closed to traffic but open to pedestrians, and keeping the south bridge pedestrian only); making both bridges pedestrian only; closing a bridge and removing it; and replacing a bridge with a pedestrian-only bridge.

According to Enns-Wind’s administrative report, “the most cost-effective option is for the bridges to be repaired and maintained so they retain their current level of service and loading.”

Total costs for keeping the current services of the bridges are estimated to be approximately $5 million.

According to Enns-Wind’s report, such money could be allocated to the project over 10 years.

There has also been significant erosion on the south side of the North Saskatchewan river bank under the north bridge.

The erosion is “getting to the point where it’s getting close to the bridge foundations,” Chiasson said.

“It’s not compromising them in any way yet, but if that erosion is allowed to continue that could get to the point where the end of the bridge could be compromised.”

Corrosion was also previously a concern, but Chiasson said it was largely superficial and “it didn’t seem like there was any significant deterioration.”

Chiasson said work toward preventing erosion should take place next year or the year after. Mayor Ames Leslie asked if work can start and stop depending on how the town funds the project, and Chaisson said it could.

Tasks to prevent bank erosion, Chaisson said, include lining the embankment with a thick amount of rock.

Enns-Wind recommended council commit to upgrading the bridges to a 50 per cent rating, to retain their current uses.

He also recommended council allocate money for engineering work in 2018 not exceeding $70,000 “to mitigate the erosion threat to the north channel bridge.”

Finally, Enns-Wind recommended council “commit to allocating the resources necessary for construction to mitigate the erosion in 2019. The cost may range between $400,000 to $1,200,000.”

“Cost certainty will be known once the preliminary work and engineering design is completed,” according to Enns-Wind’s report.

How the project will be funded for 2019 will be a topic at budget discussions.

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