Monday, December 6, 2010

Traffic Bridge discussion planned for Saskatoon city council meeting

Traffic Bridge discussion planned for Saskatoon city council meeting | News Talk 650 CKOM

"In the end, I think what is going to happen again, is that common sense will prevail, and that in fact, we'll end up with a bridge that is sympathetic to what currently is there. But we'll have to wait and see," Atchison said.
James Winkel with the city's Heritage Advisory Committee is part of the group hoping the bridge isn't torn down. He realizes things are at the eleventh hour- but hopes to potentially sway the vote.
"This is a bridge that's too important to be taken apart piece by piece and replaced. I think it's something that should be designated. There are a number of reasons why it should be, most importantly, it's historical significance," Wilkie said.

With all due respect to Mr. Winkel, historical significance should not impede relevance or common sense.

When I visit Saskatoon, I rarely if ever used the traffic bridge. I always used the Sid Buckwold, the Broadway, the College bridge or the Circle drive bridge. The traffic bridge was always to far out of my way or too cramped when I did use it. It isn't an efficient people mover.

To be quite frank, if the city, provincial and federal governments are going to put money into this project, it had better be an improvement over the old bridge. A new bridge built to look like the old bridge will cost somewhere between $27 and $34 million. A new bridge will have walkways for pedestrians and wider driving lanes for traffic and dare I hope, a second driving lane each way. In short, a new bridge will be a significant improvement over the old bridge at a lower price.

Now I'm not against keeping heritage sites as keepsakes or shrines, but if the refurbishment of the existing bridge will cost more, then chances are there will be little if not any trace of the original bridge other than the shape and design. All of the metal would be replaced with more modern metals. The roadway would be replaced, not to mention the road bed. The pillars would also be replaced or refurbished to a newer condition. In short, all of that work, for more than the price to just do a wholesale replacement (that looks like the original except that it's wider and more functional), which is what will pretty much be done anyways.

As I said. I'm all for designating heritage sites, buildings and structures where something historically significant occurs, but if the only reason to impede the replacement of an old bridge which is past its useful life and outgrown its original design is simply because it is old, then I'm sorry, that just doesn't cut it. Tell me that a battle of the NW Rebellion (yes, it was a rebellion against the lawful government of Canada, but that's another post for another day) happened on it, and I'm good to go. Tell me that a treaty was signed in the middle of it and we're good too. Explain to me that on that bridge, the settlements on each side of the river met and agreed to amalgamate, and I'd be good to go too. But just to tell me that it should be kept in current form because it's old, you've got some work to do to explain to me why I would pay more to refurbish than to replace.

Update:  On other thing to note after reading the information from the City of Saskatoon website:

Refurbishing the existing bridge come with an annual price tag of $150,000 to maintain the newly refurbished bridge over its lifetime.  That's $12 million over 80 years added to the price tag of the bridge.  Compare this to the $1.2 to $1.6 million price tag  for maintenance over the lifetime of the Steel Truss replacement bridge, and you have one more reason to choose replacement over refurbishment.

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