Get the lead out: city to repair, repaint CPR Bridge

The CPR bridge will be getting a paint job.

The CPR bridge will be getting a paint job.

Calling the bridge an environmental hazard, council approved $3.7 million in spending to remove the lead paint, give it a recoat and make repairs to the municipal historic resource in 2016 on Tuesday’s capital budget debate.

Council heard that lead from the paint on the supporting structure and steel trusses are flaking and falling into the river, potentially affecting the overall health of the river.

But the decision was not taken lightly as council did not want the bridge to become a “Green Onion” where members of the community balked at the city spending $750,000 to re-paint the water tower.

Most councillors stressed it is not about “making the bridge pretty” but out of concern for public safety and the Red Deer River.

City manager Craig Curtis said there are financial and health risks in delaying the project. He said approving the project this year would be the most cost efficient.

Mayor Tara Veer said the community fought to keep this heritage resource in the 1990s.

“Once we know there is a risk to public health and safety, we have a responsibility to react,” said Veer.

Coun. Paul Harris said the bridge has become part of the community’s identity.

“To suggest that we wait is an example of borrowing from our future to pay for our present,” he said. “We have an ethical obligation now that we know there is going to be lead in the river.”

Coun. Tanya Handley did not vote in favour but she shared the concern about “lead is falling in the river.” She said there needs to be more communication with the public about the necessity of the project before she could support it.

Coun. Lawrence Lee voted in support after unsuccessfully arguing to defer the paint remediation to another budget cycle in order to get a better price on the project.

Councillors Frank Wong and Buck Buchanan were also opposed.

The paint job and repairs are expected to extend the life of the bridge for another 40 years.

Debate on two proposed roundabouts proved to be anything but a smooth ride for city administration.

Elaine Vincent, the city’s Development Services manager, was put on the hot seat as she fielded questions about the plan to put in a roundabout at 67th Street and Johnstone Drive in 2016 and another at 19th Street and 40th Avenue in 2017.

The 67th Street intersection has one of the highest rates of collisions in the city.

Vincent said when considering safety and operations the Federal Highway Administration of the United States said roundabouts were the preferred alternatives to signal light intersections in 2008.

Council heard that Canada has about 300 roundabouts compared to more than 9,000 in Australia and 4,000 in the United States.

In the end, a roundabout at 67th Street and Johnstone Drive as part of the $6.6 million 67th Street corridor improvements was given the green light.

One of the larger ticket items – $12.2 million to improve the south east corridor/rebuilding 19th Street – was also given the go ahead. The proposed roundabout at 19th Street and 40th Avenue, however, is not set in stone. It was slated to be debated as part of the 2017 capital budget.

But Coun. Tanya Handley successfully argued to bring the design to council before a final decision is made on the improvements to the intersection.

Handley said it did not make sense to build more roundabouts before the first major roundabout in the city is fully operational.

The design will come back to council by June 30, 2016 before this part of the project moves forward.

Council voted 5-4 to spend $4 million to purchase land for a third snow storage site in 2016. A site has not been determined. Vincent said the two existing snow storage sites can handle a typical snow season but not unusual snow years. She said there is also the growth piece where the city adds more roads which means there will be more roads to plow and clear.

Veer, Councillors Buchanan, Harris and Lee were opposed.

Lee said he could not support sterilizing land that could be used for many other purposes. He said he would like administration to continue to explore technologies to deal with the snow at the storage sites.

Harris said the timing isn’t right for the costly project. He would like the city to consider buying land further out in the city.

Wong said the city has probably added another 30 roads since the last storage site was built. Wong said he has been fighting for a new site for many years.

“I think we will be needing this sooner than later,” he said. “I am a little hesitant about the site. Maybe we could go a little further out in the city.”

Council heard a new site would likely be needed in the next two to three years due to growth in the city. Vincent said the city is exploring the option of using the site for a fire training facility as well as a snow storage facility on the same piece of land.

Coun. Dianne Wyntjes said it would be a good use of the land to use it as a fire training site in the off-season. She said it is a necessary evil that comes with the growth of the city.

“We can’t have our snow and eat it too,” she said. “We are growing. If you look at this budget, there’s a large number that we are investing in roads.”

The 2016 capital budget talks continue on Wednesday. It includes a debate on the 10-year capital plan.

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