Saskatoon city council votes to demolish 103-year-old Traffic Bridge; Fix was in since 2005 to replace iconic structure with insulting replica
Heritage destroyers: Mayor Atchison, Councillors Donauer,
Dubois, Heidt, Neault, Paulsen, Penner, and Pringle
Dubois, Heidt, Neault, Paulsen, Penner, and Pringle
The most recent example of this is the fate of the historic
In a report to council on Mar. 22 the infrastructure services department said the bridge “is reaching the end of its service life, and any action to significantly extend the life of the bridge would not be in the city’s best interest. The best course of action, at this time, is to continue to monitor the condition of the superstructure and make repairs as necessary while exploring options for the eventual replacement of the bridge.”
Administration’s opinion carries a lot of weight. Administrators and councillors do talk to one another. It’s rare for city officials to bring forward a recommendation that is completely opposite of what it believes councillors are leaning towards.
On Mar. 24 a request for proposals was sent to 10 engineering firms. The title of the document says it all: Needs Assessment, Functional Planning Study and Structural Assessment – Traffic Bridge Replacement.
The opening paragraph states, “Unfortunately, the superstructure of the existing bridge will need to be replaced in the future. The primary purpose of this study is a needs assessment for that future bridge.”
This was five months before the bridge was closed on Aug. 24 for safety reasons following an inspection done by the firm that was awarded the contract, Stantec Consulting – the same company that conducted a detailed inspection of the bridge when it was closed in Nov. 2005.
The city is refusing to release an administrative report dated Sept. 1 that was tabled at a private meeting of the executive committee on Sept. 7. The document apparently contains administrative advice, analyses and policy options developed for city council. Obviously something happened at the meeting because on Sept. 10 the StarPhoenix reported that Mayor Don Atchison and several councillors said they expected the list of ten options would be narrowed at the next council meeting. Three days later, on the eve of the Sept. 15 open house, council sabotaged its own public consultation process by removing several options from consideration that included pedestrian/cyclist use only, the public’s preferred choice.
In an op-ed to the StarPhoenix on Oct. 15, Ryan Walker, a
“This idea attracted a lot of support during public consultations on the future of the bridge. Vehicle traffic at peak times modelled by Stantec Engineering for scenarios in 2012 and 2029 with the
According to the city’s contract with Stantec, a pedestrian/cyclist only structure was one of the options to be evaluated and presented to the public at an open house. Stantec intended to do just that but it appears council stepped in and scuttled the plan.
If council had no intention of considering a pedestrian/cyclist only bridge, then why did it vote in favour of accepting Stantec’s proposal on May 25?
(In a report to council that evening, administration stated that the study would discuss “how the bridge might be configured as a transit-only or pedestrian/cyclist-only facility” and that each transportation option “will have a corresponding structural evaluation to determine detailed cost estimates and a feasibility analysis.”)
The steering committee also noted that the public consultation surveys are not “statistically valid.” And yet, the city is basing part of its decision on the fact that during the third round of public consultation, approximately 59 per cent of the feedback supported the construction of a new bridge.
It’s important to understand that when the
In Dec. 2005, the city submitted a proposal to Western Economic Diversification Canada with a financial request of $7.5 million for the replacement of the bridge. The city provided the federal government with three options: a basic concrete structure with wider traffic lanes; a steel truss replica; and a signature bridge – the same options that made the final four in this year’s process.
Council’s decision on Dec. 6 to demolish and replace the bridge with an insulting replica is simply the continuation of that earlier, unsuccessful effort. Six of the eight votes in favour came from councillors who were there in 2005. Rehabilitation was never seriously considered. It’s always been about a new structure to compliment and service River Landing.
Councillors’ concerns about fire and ambulance access and fiscal prudence are red herrings.
For years the
When the bridge was closed from Nov. 2005 to Sept. 2006 for repairs there were no news stories of fire and ambulance crews not being able to answer a call because of it.
As for finances, since
Keep in mind this is the same council that is hiding details from the public on the city’s due diligence of the Lake Placid Developments/Victory Majors Investments Corporation River Landing Parcel “Y” project and who, in March 2009, decided in secret to move the nationally recognized Mendel Art Gallery to River Landing. This bunch bankrupted itself of any trust and integrity a long time ago.