Londoners may have to wait even longer before a replacement arrives for the city’s Victoria Bridge.
On Tuesday, London’s civic works committee voted to look for a cheaper option that would swap out the replacement’s current design, whose construction is slated to begin sometime between fall 2021 and winter 2022.
Linking the Old South area with the city’s downtown core, the current Victoria Bridge has stood on Ridout Street south of Horton Street for nearly a century.
A city report states the bridge is showing “increasing areas of structural deterioration” and that a replacement is needed in the near future.
Currently, the cost of the replacement is estimated to be just over $14 million, but Ward 1 Coun. Michael van Holst believes that number can be brought down.
A notable feature of the replacement is its historically minded arched design, which was crafted in response to comments from public meetings.
Van Holst’s push for a cheaper option echoes a similar proposal from the councillor that was shot down by London’s previous council last year.
“My goal at that time was to suggest to council that we not do the fancier bridge… and instead do a plain bridge,” van Holst told committee members, adding that the aesthetic improvement requested by residents could be supplemented by public art or other means.
In a letter addressed to the civic works committee, van Holst wrote that a standard concrete girder bridge would save the city $2.3 million, a number that was touted by city director of roads and transportation Doug MacRae last year.
“There are bigger priorities for us,” van Holst said.
“I see that this is a place where we can save a substantial amount of money on a capital project.”
Ward 12 Coun. Elizabeth Peloza, the motion’s lone opponent, warned her fellow committee members of the consequences that may arise from delaying the project in order to explore cheaper options.
The current replacement plan is meant to stagger construction with other upcoming projects in the area in order to ease traffic impact, but adopting a new plan may affect that co-ordination.
“Londoners are always complaining how we don’t schedule projects,” Peloza said.
Another consequence may arise from the bridge’s rapidly deteriorating condition, which would bring about additional maintenance costs, Peloza said.
While unable to provide a specific number, MacRae estimated maintenance costs to run between $100,000 and $200,000.
MacRae added that exploring options could potentially bring a several-year delay, pushing construction back from its 2021-22 start date.
The committee’s push for a cheaper replacement will go before full city council next week.
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