Delayed Grey Highlands bridge replacement could cost double

Grey Highlands council has received a lesson in the cost of delaying a capital project.

At its meeting on Feb. 1, council learned that the estimated cost of replacing the Wyville bridge near Vandeleur has more than doubled since the project was first considered in 2015.

The replacement of the Wyville bridge has been on the radar for Grey Highlands since 2014. In 2015 it was estimated that the replacement of the bridge would cost $550,000. In the new staff report on the matter, the engineer’s estimate for the project exceeded $1.1 million.

Over the years the project was delayed for a number of reasons including: soil issues, issues with Hydro One, the COVID-19 pandemic and staffing changes.

“This has quite a history,” said Mayor Paul McQueen.

Director of Transportation Chris Cornfield said since his return to the municipality he has made the project a priority. He noted that the $1.1 million was an estimate.

“There is a chance the tender price could be less. There is also a risk it could be more,” he said.

Cornfield said he brought the new report to ensure the new council is up to speed on the project and its history. Staff asked permission to send the project out for tenders to get the project moving.

Over the years, additional money was set aside as the estimated costs of the project increase. A total of $768,935 has been set aside, $125,254 has been spent on the project so far and $643,681 remains. The rest will be funded through a debenture.

“This is a harsh reminder of what it costs to maintain our infrastructure and the need for our asset management plan,” said Coun. Tom Allwood. “Pushing a project back doesn’t make it less expensive. This is one small bridge of many.”

Coun. Paul Allen asked staff how the municipality had managed to continue to use the bridge for seven years, after it had been slated to be replaced and asked if load restrictions were in place for the bridge.

Cornfield explained that bridges are indexed using a rating system. A rating of 100 would be a brand new structure, while ratings in the 40-50 range would mean the structure needed major repairs or replacement.

“There is no timeline on the speed of deterioration. If it’s at 50, it could hold the line at 50 for one, five or 10 years. It depends on the structure itself,” said Cornfield, who said there are no load restrictions on the bridge now, but it could be a possibility at any time.

Council voted 7-0 in favour of sending the project out for tender.

Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,