No band-aid solutions: Questions remain over permanent fate of Arlington Bridge

Click to play video: 'No band-aid solutions: Questions remain over permanent fate of Arlington Bridge'
No band-aid solutions: Questions remain over permanent fate of Arlington Bridge
Rosanna Hempel looks at the impacts of the Arlington Bridge closure, and what could come next for the aging structure – Nov 22, 2023

A Winnipeg city councillor says immediate action should be taken to replace the Arlington Bridge, half of which is located in his ward.

Coun. Ross Eadie (Mynarski) told Global Winnipeg that Tuesday’s indefinite closure of the 111-year-old bridge, while disappointing, was inevitable — but the closure means traffic will be drastically impacted, to the tune of more than 13,000 vehicles that used it daily.

Vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians now have to take a detour via the McPhillips Street Underpass or the Slaw Rebchuk Bridge on Salter Street.

“Let’s get a new bridge built — I don’t even know why they’re wasting their time to continue a study to find out how much it’s going to cost to fix the steel and everything,” Eadie said.

“It’s going to be about $200 million. Why not spend $340 million and get the thing done, and we’ll have a new bridge that’ll last for 100 years.”

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Click to play video: 'Coun. Ross Eadie wants action on Arlington Bridge'
Coun. Ross Eadie wants action on Arlington Bridge

Eadie said the traffic situation isn’t going to get any better, as the Main Street and McPhillips underpasses, as well as the Slaw Rebchuk Bridge, are already overrun by traffic during weekday rush hours.

He’s also concerned about the ability of emergency vehicles to get through such a bottleneck.

“Every second, every minute counts … and if that bridge could accommodate a fire truck — because sometimes we have fires where you need trucks from other stations, or ambulances, or what have you — you need to be able to get to Health Sciences Centre and you need to be able to do that emergency service work as well.”

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The city said Tuesday that it commissioned a study earlier this year to see what could be done to tackle the problem of steel corrosion on the bridge, which has become so widespread that regular annual maintenance will no longer cut it.

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Problems with the century-old structure were first brought to light in 2016, when city engineers identified the bridge as nearing the end of its lifespan.

University of Manitoba civil engineering professor Ahmed Shalaby says the city needs to look at emergency services and traffic flow in and out of downtown, and that the big question that is yet to be decided is whether replacing the bridge outright is more effective than maintaining it.

“In my view, it’s a temporary pause until we have more information,” Shalaby told 680 CJOB’s The Start.

“All of these decisions are going to be based on information and close examination of the bridge itself and what it can handle.

“We don’t know yet what it will take to keep it operational for another 20-25 years, versus what it needs for rebuilding it — and whether you need rebuild it at the same location or not. I think these are all broader questions.”

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Click to play video: '‘No band-aid solutions’: City engineer on Arlington Bridge woes'
‘No band-aid solutions’: City engineer on Arlington Bridge woes

City engineering manager Brad Neirinck told Global Winnipeg the decision to close the bridge Tuesday wasn’t due to any immediate danger for vehicles or pedestrians, and wasn’t a snap decision either.

“We took a while to do the inspection. We cross-referenced it with doing some structural analysis to determine what the issues were with all the widespread corrosion we had on the bridge,” Neirinck said.

“It was more of a risk mitigation decision in the end. The bridge is not dangerous right now, it’s just that there’s a lot of risk with it.

“We need to do some interim maintenance even right now while it’s closed and while we’re keeping it closed to make sure the structural integrity is maintained.”

Nierinck said there’s no band-aid solution to the problem, as the city has been “doing band-aids” for several years with regular maintenance and the bridge being closed annually for weeks at a time.

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“Full rehabilitation is required to put the bridge back into service,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg weighing ‘feasible rehabilitation’ options for Arlington Bridge following closure'
Winnipeg weighing ‘feasible rehabilitation’ options for Arlington Bridge following closure

Winnipeg mayor Scott Gillingham said whatever decision ends up being made will hinge on the results of a study that’s still months away.

“This bridge has served the people of Winnipeg for over 100 years — inevitably it comes to a point where a long-term decision has to be made,” Gillingham said.

“We’re at that point where we really need to hear from our consultants that we’ve hired to determine what the long-term future is.”

The mayor said the Arlington Bridge isn’t the city’s top infrastructure priority, although it has attracted a lot of public attention.

“You took a look at some of the other parts of the city… there’s capital needs and infrastructure needs that are still oustanding in those communities as well.

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“It’s a balancing act — it’s difficult decisions for council.”

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