Forks Road Bridge needs to come down, city staff tell council

The Forks Road Bridge will be closed to pedestrian traffic before Christmas, Welland council heard Tuesday night. – Dave Johnson, The Welland Tribune

Forks Road Bridge will be closed to pedestrian traffic before Christmas, Welland’s manager of engineering services told city council Tuesday night.

“We’ve been advised that closing it would be in our best interest,” said Chris Anders as he gave a presentation to council ahead of a report that was on the agenda.

He said there’s concern about added weight on the now-closed bridge due to snow gathering on it. There is no access to the structure to allow for plowing.

There’s already concern the bridge may not be able to hold its own weight and could collapse sometime between a year and 16 months.

“That’s an estimate … it’s very difficult to predict how quickly the structure is weakening. The time could be less or more,” said Anders. “We’d look at removal of the structure so it wouldn’t collapse or fail.”

The structure, formerly known as Bridge 18, was closed on November 2 to all vehicle traffic after it was found corrosion was spreading quicker than anticipated, even after repairs carried out in 2016.

In his presentation, and later in his report, Anders presented two options to council – one of which was to tear down the structure and the associated piers and not replace it at a cost somewhere around $4 million or to tear it down and replace it with a steel and slab bridge at a cost of nearly $13 million or more depending on the state of the piers.

He said more testing was needed on the two piers in the water to see what state they are in and to see if they could take a horizontal load if the city were to fill in the banks beside them. The piers were designed to stand up to the vertical load of the bridge.

Councillors heard the city could also look at a causeway as suggested by residents at an earlier public meeting inside city hall.

A prefabricated bridge was ruled out, despite a lower cost, because there would be no bikes lanes or sidewalk and it would have less of a lifespan, only 50 years as compared to the 75-year lifespan of a steel and slab bridge.

Building a bridge alongside the current structure and later sliding it over was also ruled out due to much higher cost, said Anders.

He said a steel and slab structure gave the city the best value and longevity.

Councillors seemed supportive of tearing down the existing structure and Ward 3 Coun. John Chiocchio wanted to see council pass something Tuesday night.

He was concerned about the bridge falling into the water.

Ward 6 Coun. Bonnie Fokkens said she was leery of council passing anything quickly on the demolition of the bridge.

“Once that bridge is down, we may drop it and pursue any further avenues,” she said. Dain City falls in her ward and she lives in the area as well.

She said whatever is done, she wanted council to know where she stands on the issue and stressed the bridge needs to be replaced.

“We need the bridge,” she said.

Source: St Catharines Standard