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Willow Cale bridge bill – $6.8 million; Winnipeg St. sinkhole – $1.7 million

City engineer Adam Holmes says the Willow Cale bridge should be open by the summer. Bill Phillips photo
City engineer Adam Holmes at the Willow Cale bridge last April.

The city has known since last spring that the bill for fixing Willow Cale bridge at Haggith Creek would come due this year. So no one should be surprised that it is now due. What may be surprising, however, is the cost.

Less than a month after approving a capital plan to borrow $32.2 million for a slew of projects, staff is asking council to revise it upwards by another $8.5 million – $6.8 million for the Willow Cale Bridge work and $1.7 million to cover the cost of repairing the sinkhole that emerged at Winnipeg Street and 20th Avenue last year.

The Willow Cale bridge replaced a culvert that had been installed when the Willow Cale Forest Service Road was first built. An inspection indicated that the culvert was failing and by early 2016, single-lane traffic was implemented across the culvert.  Construction of a replacement crossing began in September, 2016 and the bridge opened on March 30, 2017.

The design team consisted of DWB Consulting Services Ltd. and GeoNorth Engineering Ltd., according to a report going before council on Monday. The contractor was Belvedere Place Contracting Ltd.

By early August 2017, cracks appeared in the new asphalt on the south side of the bridge, indicating unstable ground beneath, according to the report. The city engaged independent engineering consultants to investigate why this was happening and to identify next steps. The culprit was determined to be a layer of clay about 20 metres below the surface that was undetected in geotechnical surveys and provided an unstable base for earth above it. After closing the bridge, the city’s first priority was to stabilize the ground underneath the bridge

structure. This was achieved by installing a culvert in Haggith Creek and covering it with five metres of fill.

Construction work started in early April 2018 to repair the Willow Cale Road bridge over Haggith Creek. The city’s contractor, Ruskin Construction, drove two steel piles into the ground on the south side of the creek, built a brace structure to support the bridge deck, and built a new approach span. After the work was completed, the north-side bridge abutment was inspected and repaired. The bridge re-opened in July 2018.

The city is working with federal and provincial agencies to mitigate any effects of the culvert on fish habitat, according to the report. At this time, however, the culvert cannot be removed because of public safety – the culvert accommodates over five metres of fill to remain in place to stabilize the soil in front of the bridge abutments.

The project was originally budgeted to cost $3,105,000, with $325,000 from the Community Works Fund and $2,780,000 from the Endowment Reserve.

The estimated annual debt servicing costs on $6,800,000 over five years is $1,466,245, which would bring the cost of the project to about $8.2 million.

“The 2019 tax levy has already incorporated the debt servicing costs associated with $3,700,000 of the project costs,” reads the city report. “When calculating the 2020 impact, therefore, it is only necessary to estimate the debt servicing costs on the remaining $3,100,000, which is 668,435, or 0.61 per cent.”

Staff is recommending borrowing the full amount so the original funds can be replenished.