© Herald photo by Tyler Clarke
A truck crosses the Diefenbaker bridge this month -- a sight that would not have been seen in the months following a crack found on the bridge in August, 2011. After a report by Stantec Consulting came out reading that the bridge was good for another quarter-century, it was revealed that the bridge’s piers had never been inspected -- something council decided on Tuesday to rectify.
Bringing up the Diefenbaker bridge is like re-opening a wound, with the topic bringing council to a sporadic curmudgeonly state during Tuesday’s meeting.
At issue were a handful of things, the most significant of which a $65,887 tender for underwater sonar scanning of the bridge’s piers.
“We’re not as happy as we might be in this recommendation,” Coun. Don Cody said, reiterating the points he made during the previous week’s executive committee meeting -- that the piers should have already been inspected.
Cody said that he was “a little disturbed” that the piers weren’t inspected prior to Stantec Consulting’s bridge report, which reads that the bridge is good for another 25 years.
“The only reason I’m even going to even support it is because the ($65,887) comes directly from the provincial government … but there is one taxpayer,” Cody said.
“I think the biggest part is that we’re moving forward and we’re continuing to get a thorough inspection that arguably should have been completed right at the initial time, as well … but wasn’t for whatever reason,” Coun Martin Ring said.
Council approved the tender to ISL Engineering after a short conversation, but that wasn’t the only bridge concern raised during Tuesday’s city council meeting.
Although the bridge has been fully open to its primary weight since March, 2012, following more than six months of restrictions in response to a crack found on a bridge girder, the western walking path remains closed.
“I’m disappointed in SaskTel,” Mayor Greg Dionne said, noting that the path is only closed because of a SaskTel cable that runs along the path.
SaskTel originally planned on having the cable removed by Aug. 1, but it’s still there, Dionne said, adding that a recent near miss he witnessed has placed a sense of urgency in the cable’s removal.
Dionne said that he recently saw a young boy dart from the eastern walking path to the west near the northern end of the bridge -- a northbound motorist narrowly missing him.
“I don’t know how she missed him,” Dionne said after Tuesday’s meeting.
Although there’s technically a way to get to the other side of the highway without crossing it -- by going down the off ramp and under the bridge -- people are inclined to walk across the highway instead, because it’s much quicker, Dionne said.
With unanimous council approval, Dionne motioned that SaskTel be served notice that it’s the city’s intent to open the western walking path by Nov. 15.
“It’s a danger and it’s ready to open,” Dionne said. “It’s the last piece and SaskTel’s had lots of time.”
In response to this latest resurgence in Diefenbaker bridge discussion, Coun. Charlene Miller asked a question posed to her by a constituent -- “What about the railroad bridge?”
Built in 1909, the North Saskatchewan River’s rail crossing at Prince Albert is much older than the traffic crossing a few hundred yards downstream, which celebrated its grand opening in 1960.
Although the rail bridge isn’t owned by the city like that Diefenbaker bridge is, Miller motioned that a report come to council outlining the results of recent inspections -- a sentiment Dionne was quick to back.
“With the rail accident that happened down east, everyone’s concerned now that everything that’s being carried on rail lines is safe.”
Public works director Colin Innes said that he expects to see ISL Engineering inspect the Diefenbaker bridge's piers before the end of the year.