Closed signs and barricades block off the defunct Mount McIntyre Ski Bridge over Sumanik Drive in Whitehorse on Oct. 17. After first announcing in July that the bridge would be torn down, the City of Whitehorse is now saying it plans to repair the bridge instead. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Mount McIntyre ski bridge will stay standing

Less than a month after voting to tear it down, council hopes bridge can be fixed in time for the AWG

Turns out the Mount McIntyre ski bridge over Sumanik Drive will remain in place after all.

If repairs go precisely as planned the bridge could be reopened in time for the 2020 Arctic Winter Games next March when the games are in Whitehorse.

Whitehorse city council voted 5-2 in favor of sole sourcing a contract for Morrison Hershfield to design and oversee the repair of the crossing over Sumanik Drive at its Oct. 15 meeting.

Councillors Dan Boyd, who attended the meeting by phone, and Laura Cabott voted against the sole-source contract award.

The bridge connects many of the Mount McIntyre ski trails, though there are alternative routes for skiers to get to their favourite trails.

The Oct. 15 vote came less than a month after council voted in favour of having the bridge torn down.

The bridge was closed in July after being struck by a waste haul truck that hadn’t retracted properly. That was the most recent of four collisions larger vehicles have had with the crossing in recent years.

Initial inspections recommended the bridge be entirely removed before winter due to the additional snow load the season would bring.

An insurance adjuster with ClaimsPro visited the site only after council originally voted to remove the bridge, Taylor Eshpeter, the city’s engineer, explained to council ahead of the Oct. 15 vote to keep it.

Rather than remove it, the adjuster proposed repairs and re-enforcement work to address the issues with the bridge’s integrity.

“In order to complete the repair before the 2020 Arctic Winter Games, the design work must commence immediately,” Eshpeter said. “Administration intends to continue to use Morrison Hershfield for detailed design, construction inspection and contract administration to the end of the project.”

Eshpeter described the work timeline ahead of the Arctic Winter Games (AWG), which start March 15, as “very aggressive”, acknowledging it leaves no room for a buffer and factors like weather, contractor availability and more will impact whether the work is done in time for the Games.

That said, Eshpeter stood by his earlier comments that while the bridge would ideally be available for the games, if it’s not, organizers have indicated the games will go on, though logistics would be impacted.

Jan Polivka, operations manager at the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club, said in a Oct. 17 interview that though the bridge is not used for races, it provides an important route for groomers to get to the trails ahead of a race along with being an important route for recreational skiers to get to trails.

“It’s a really important access point,” he said, adding it becomes that much more important during major competitions like the AWG.

He described the decision to move forward with repairs as good news for the AWG, though he also acknowledged it means the height of the bridge won’t change and that has the potential to mean more collisions with the structure.

Not having the bridge available is “a really big inconvenience”, especially in an AWG year.

That said, he pointed out the ski club has a good relationship with the city and he’s confident officials with both the ski club and city would work to find a solution.

He’s optimistic the bridge will be built in time for the games.

At the Oct. 15 council meeting, Eshpeter said going out to tender on the contract to design and oversee the work would push back the timeline and the bridge would not be ready for the 2020 AWG.

Eshpeter said Morrison Hershfield completed the design work to repair damage to the bridge in 2017 and had assessed the damage from the waste haul truck this year.

After design work is finished, council will need to approve the budget for the work before a tender on it is released. ClaimsPro has estimated the work, which it is covering, to cost around $708,000.

Most council members indicated their preference would not be to sole source contracts, but given that insurance will pay for the repairs and with potential to have it done for the Arctic Winter Games, they voted in favour of it.

Cabott and Boyd voting against the contract.

Cabott pointed out it was only a little less than a month ago that a recommendation from the same consultant proposed removing the bridge.

And now there’s a significantly different proposal on the table. She also cited concerns around the four-metre clearance, given the number of collisions in recent years, and said it seems like the work is being rushed in the interest of the 2020 AWG.

Eshpeter again emphasized the situation has been “evolving quickly” with the insurance firm only coming up and proposing the repair after council voted to remove the structure.

He also addressed the issue with the height of the bridge, arguing the city could take measures to prevent collisions.

“This could be mitigated in the future through advanced warning signage and minor modifications to the grade of the roadway,” Eshpeter stated in his report to council.

Boyd, meanwhile, questioned the cost, stating he’s heard from those in the private sector that the work could be done for a lot less.

Boyd also suggested that with the tight timelines, the city may not be able to have it ready for the games anyway.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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