After closing the pedestrian/ski bridge over Sumanik Drive to the public in July, the city may entirely remove the structure connecting trails around the Mt. McIntyre Recreation Centre.
That will leave those who normally use the bridge using other routes to get to trails as they have been doing since the bridge closed as it’s not yet clear when a temporary or permanent crossing would be in place.
The recommendation for the removal came forward at Whitehorse city council’s Sept. 16 meeting. It also outlined plans to look at potential temporary and permanent options for the crossing.
The bridge was shut after a waste truck, which hadn’t retracted properly, collided with the bridge and the damage made it unsafe for pedestrian use. From the inspections that followed it was also recommended the bridge be removed before winter due to the additional snowload.
Though it was the July collision that prompted the closure, city staff said there’s been a number of incidents going back to 2015 where damage has been sustained due to vehicles that exceed the four-metre bridge clearance colliding with the bridge.
Plans had been in place for repairs with a tender that was set to go out later in July. Due to the most recent collision, it was never released.
“The city added the bridge to its insurance policy after (a) 2017 incident and has initiated a claim to recover some of the costs associated with the 2019 collision to put toward the overall project,” city engineer Taylor Eshpeter said in his report to council.
It’s expected the bridge removal will cost about $50,000.
The city had set aside $198,000 to be spent between 2019 and 2022 on the repair work that was planned with $128,000 coming from federal gas tax funding and $70,000 coming from the 2017 insurance claim.
“The revised project scope will include the removal of the bridge, design of a temporary solution and analysis/conceptual design of a permanent solution,” Eshpeter said. “This work does not qualify for Gas Tax and would need to be funded entirely from reserves with the intent of recovering a portion of these costs from an insurance claim.”
Given the tight timeframe as the winter approaches, Eshpeter said the focus right now is on removing the current bridge so that it is not a risk.
Efforts are underway for some sort of temporary crossing or solution, but it’s not clear if that can happen before the winter, he said.
“It would be a Band-Aid solution,” Eshpeter explained, after acknowledging the removal of the bridge will impact cross–country skiers if a solution is not found.
Along with having an impact on recreational users, Eshpeter said it would also have some effect on the 2020 Arctic Winter Games set for next March, though Games officials have confirmed with the city that they can work around it.
City spokesperson Myles Dolphin said that part of Sumanik Drive would be closed when the bridge is removed and though exact timing isn’t known, it would likely be less than a day.
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