Margaret Ave. bridge: province should pay for any future rebuilds, says top engineer

Kitchener City staff say the province would be on hook for the estimated $8 million cost of once again rebuilding the Margaret Ave. in order to accomodate any future plans for a proposed high-speed rail line that links London, Kitchener and Toronto Pearson Airport.

Kitchener city staff cite a lack of information on the province's high speed rail plan

Kitchener city staff are recommending the city should go ahead with its existing plans to rebuild the Margaret Ave. and scrap plans to include more space for a potential third, high speed rail line because of a lack of information from the province about its plans to build the potential high speed link between London, Kitchener and Toronto Pearson Airport.

The recommendation comes after one of the city's top engineers and his team tried and failed for more than a month to pry more information out of the Ministry of Transportation about province's future high speed rail plans. 

If the province goes ahead with its plans, it could mean the Margaret Ave. bridge would have to be demolished in order to accommodate any potential high speed rail link, according to Steve Allen, the City of Kitchener`s manager of design. 

"If they were to demolish the existing structure and rebuild another bridge we expect it would be in the order of $8 million plus the demolition costs," he said told Craig Norris on The Morning Edition Tuesday.

"We would presume that that would be the province's cost if they're the proponent of bringing in whatever, high speed rail or expanded GO service, whatever they need for a larger bridge."

The crumbling bridge was closed a year ago after a report suggested the structure could collapse at any moment. Last September, staff recommended demolishing the bridge and replacing it with a new one that would span the existing two tracks.

Then, in June, staff returned to council with another recommendation: that construction of the Margaret Avenue bridge be put on hold until the governing provincial Liberals could provide more clarity on their plans for high-speed rail between London and Toronto. At the time, it was believed that running a high-speed train through Kitchener would require a third track, which the original bridge design could not handle.

According to Premier Kathleen Wynne, the government is still interested in building high-speed rail, and an environmental assessment is in its early stages. 

Kitchener city council will consider its plans for the bridge on Monday. 

Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr says he supports going ahead with the bridge rebuild instead of waiting for more information on the implications of a high-speed rail line.

"That high-speed rail, while it has been discussed and put out by the former minister, it's not, at this point in time, a done deal and we cannot wait any longer," said Zehr. "I think it was a prudent decision to proceed the way we did with some further discussion and investigation and now I think it's time to move on and do what we can do to restore that roadway."

If the bridge design is approved on Monday, city staff estimate the bridge will cost around $6.3 million. A larger bridge that spans three tracks would cost an additional $1.2 million, for a total cost of $7.5 million.

The Community and Infrastructure Services committee will vote on the proposal on Monday.