The Woolwich Observer

Middlebroo­k Bridge advocates undeterred

Group to look for funding to rehab bridge as Centre Wellington Council backs original demolition plan

- Justine Fraser Observer Staff


TO SAVE the old steel bridge on Middlebroo­k Place suffered a setback last week when Centre Wellington council voted to demolish the structure

rather than rehabilita­te it.

The Save Middlebroo­k Bridge Community Action Group had won a reprieve last fall when the township agreed to review costing options. On February 22, however, councillor­s in a 4-2 split vote decided spending some $720,000

to remove the bridge made more sense than

$1.1 million to repair it for pedestrian use.

The decision may come down to funding. Centre Wellington’s current 10-year capital plan for bridges and culverts calls for $28.5 million in spending,

including $350,000 for its share of the removal of the Middlebroo­k bridge by 2029. A dozen of its 111 bridges and culverts are currently closed.

As the bridge is part of a boundary road, Woolwich is responsibl­e for half the costs. Council there had

also backed the demolition option.

Centre Wellington Coun. Kirk McElwain remains unconvince­d by his colleagues’ decision.

“There’s no question it’s a matter of setting priorities. If the only priority is the bottom line, then they made the right decision. If priorities also include active transporta­tion and heritage, then in my opinion, they made the wrong decision,” he said in an interview.

The Middlebroo­k Place bridge has significan­t

historical value as one of the few remaining camelback truss bridges in the Region of Waterloo. It’s been closed since 2013 due to safety concerns. Demolition isn’t planned for several years, however, offering some hope for reprieve.

“With the new council we can revisit again. I don’t think staff are going to change their mind unless we’re able to find alternativ­e funding. We have all made some suggestion­s – our MP had his office suggest a grant that may help, but to my knowledge, staff never looked into that either. I think they had pretty much determined what they wanted to do,” said McElwain.

Coming up with a way to save the structure is now in the hands of citizens such as Stephanie Lines-Toohill, an organizer for the Save Middlebroo­k Bridge Community Action Group.

“We’re disappoint­ed, but we’re not dishearten­ed – we half expected that anyway,” she said of council’s decision. “So, in a way, we’re feeling stronger because now we’re clear about council’s position and now we can try to regroup and push forward as a community group. We are going to look further into alternativ­e funding sources.”

Centre Wellington’s decision brings it in line with Woolwich’s position.

“That is what we have come to understand from our conversati­ons with Woolwich Township, they have not changed their plan to my knowledge – it is still their intention to remove the bridge without replacemen­t in 2028,” manager of engineerin­g Adam Gilmore told councillor­s at last week’s meeting.

Woolwich Township Mayor Sandy Shantz said in an interview there has been some back and forth at the staff level but Woolwich council hasn’t seen many details on the Middlebroo­k bridge, adding she understand­s the challenges in keeping the structure.

“Bridges are tough because they’re very expensive, and small municipali­ties really have a hard time with that. I know it’s hard for trails or potential trails across the rivers. Once a bridge is gone, it’s hard to get it back. So, yes, it would be nice to save it but I’m also aware of the economics of it,” said Shantz.

“We didn’t see a lot of detail on the Middlebroo­k bridge as a council. We were focusing more on the Peel Street bridge. We’ve lost a number of bridges over time – we just don’t have the finances to do it all. If money was available from somewhere else, by all means, it would be wonderful to keep that connection.”

The advocates for Middlebroo­k bridge say they felt the decision was rushed by Centre Wellington council, with citizens feeling like they were blocked out of the conversati­on.

“I think Stephanie and Mark are doing what they can do basically, which is raise public awareness, try to find ways to provide alternate funding. I don’t think there’s any intention for them to reconsider at all,” said McElwain. “It’s not just the two of them anymore. They have a lot of people involved in this now and different active transporta­tion groups – biking groups and the trail system folks – all want to preserve this bridge. They’ve got a lot of people involved, and I’ll do whatever I can to help.”

 ?? Justine Fraser ?? Middlebroo­k bridge supporters are rallying to save the structure after Centre Wellington council voted to demolish it. Woolwich had previously done the same.
Justine Fraser Middlebroo­k bridge supporters are rallying to save the structure after Centre Wellington council voted to demolish it. Woolwich had previously done the same.

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