Millions of dollars will be required to renovate the CP Rail Bridge in Red Deer. (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

Re-evaluation report on Red Deer’s CPR Bridge work expected soon

Cost-benefit factors getting a close look

While one of Red Deer’s most iconic historic resources waits with enduring patience for repairs and a fresh environmentally-friendly new look, the cost could end up higher that the $3.7 million the city has already budgeted.

Wayne Gustafson, City of Red Deer Engineering Services manager, said Tuesday that the city’s full engineering review on the CPR Bridge is due at the end of April. It was decided last year to do the review because there were some discrepancies in earlier life-cycle costing and just what needed to be done.

The CPR Bridge over the Red Deer River was originally a wooden trestle when it was built in 1891. Then in 1907 it was replaced with the steel framework that still stands today. For the past 25 years it’s been a highly used connector by cyclists and pedestrians to the city’s trail system, with about 700 people a day using it at last count in 2015.

The city’s 2016 budget included approval of $3.4 million for lead paint removal and re-coating the bridge, as well as $255,000 for repairs. Removing lead paint would require the city to hire specialists for the task, which involves careful containment and work procedures.

While environmental concerns were raised earlier about the bridge’s old lead paint flaking into and harming the river, Gustafson said it’s not as big an environmental concern now because the city didn’t have the information then that it has today.

The cost of the bridge work is not just as simple as painting. There are some structural elements on the bridge that are nearing the end of their life and they have to figure out the best way and most cost-effective way to deal with those, he said.

For example the abutment — the piece that the bridge sits on, on each end bank of the river — is showing distress.

“You can imagine that the construction techniques that were used in the early 1900s … aren’t quite what they are today, as well as materials.” So the city is looking at what the best solution would be.

Do they replace it or do an interim fix, with the difference being does it last 50 to 75 years, rather than 100, and what is the cost benefit? And that’s just one element they are looking at on the bridge, Gustafson said.

The comprehensive work plan will identify what work should be done, and when. There are no safety concerns with the bridge, and no urgency to do the work, he said.

There is a possibility that the bridge work cost could be higher. “But I preface the higher by saying you’re managing a multi-million asset over a lifespan of another 100 years.” If the report results in a significant change to the budget, Gustafson said the matter will have to go back to city council for discussion.

Work on the bridge could start this year, and depending on the type of work, the city will need to get environmental approvals first, Gustafson said.

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