By Chris Pickup
Haldimand staffer Sheila Wilson, who is in charge of the Cayuga rail trail project, presented council with an update on its progress at Tuesday’s council in committee meeting.
The pictures she produced to show the committee however, were apparently too dark to see properly and were therefore not projected on the youtube recording of proceedings. They may now be accessed on the county’s website.
Wilson noted 75 ties had been replaced, and some 2000 boards of composite decking were to be laid atop them.
Having evidently read regionalnewsforum’s recent piece on the state of the Cayuga rail trail, councillor Fred Morison asked Wilson to comment on the
rotted ties still in place. She said the engineer had walked through and identified more that needed to be taken out.
The whole project is slated to be finished mid September; yet here we are at September 4 and here we are with yet more pictures of rotted ties attached to good ones, and composite boarding laid on top.
It seems at this point that a potted history (see below) would be apropos.
A BRIDGE TOO FAR
By John Walker
In 2010 Albert Marshall, who had bought the abandoned railway right-of-way from the west end of the bridge to the west River Road, floated the idea of converting it into a pedestrian running/ walking trail over the river.
It took six years, but Mr. Marshall noted in an official resume, “in 2016 I was able to convince the local county council (including his brother-in-law, Councillor Fred Morison) to adopt the idea.”
In return for donation of a portion of the railroad land from the bridge to King George St., which has no frontage on a road and cannot be developed, the county gave Mr. Marshall a tax receipt for $33,000 and paid all his legal costs. He retained the rest of the railway right-of-way which he is developing as residential lots.
A preliminary report to county council estimated the cost to convert the old bridge to a rail trail at $2 million. This included the replacement of all railway ties, rotted or otherwise, on the bridge and a concrete walking surface.
Council approved a less-expensive approach at $1.4 million using Ward 2 Vibrancy funds (which are controlled by Marshall’s brother-in-law, councillor Fred Morison). The project was scheduled for construction in 2019 but was moved up to 2018, probably to ensure its completion before the end of this term of office because it was already under attack by local residents.
Staff report PED-GM-11-2016 accepted an engineering visual-survey report by WitzelDyce Eng. Inc. recommending removal of only fifty rotted ties and repairs to concrete piers and abutments.
Over eighty of the worst rotted ties have been replaced but many rotting ties remain. Some of the side railings for the bridge walk are bolted into place using these rotting ties. Water damage, insect damage and weathering will continue to deteriorate these ties in future.
Another large savings in the staff report was the change of walking surface to a composite board decking over lathing laid atop the ties. The boards are placed such that water can drain through them onto the ties below.
The engineer also stressed the “life safety risks” in allowing citizen access to the bridge under construction. The county and contractor have provided only minimal restriction to the bridge by using light, portable fencing, easily circumvented. No serious warning signs of the life-threatening risks were posted.
Recently additional light fencing was placed at the bridge ends. The signs read, “No Trespassing”. Not a major deterrent since the citizens own the property. Only extreme good fortune has protected this dangerous project from serious accidents.
(In contrast, Waterford Bridge Rail Trail used ten-foot high gates covered with barbed wire to limit access during construction.)
Many adverse changes from the original Seferian Group Design have taken place in the rail trail west of the bridge.
The original plan had trail access ninety degrees to the rail bed from King George Road across from the cemetery. Unfortunately someone removed the railroad rock ballast from a portion of the intended trail and dumped large amounts of fill along both sides of the part the county eventually bought.
Now at the trailhead hikers see a huge, half-finished excavation project that must look like the Welland Canal did when it was still under construction.
The shortened trail is now accessed by an unplanned road paralleling the pseudo canal until it precipitously drops down to the “comfort station” and vehicle turnaround.
Trail users in wheelchairs could be dropped off and picked up here for trips to the bridge and back. This is the only segment of the trail that meets provincial accessibility standards – the part that passes between the dumped piles of fill that nature is converting to rolling hills of rank weeds.
Approaching the trailhead from the west on King George Street, one sees a devastated wasteland of mud, rock and noxious weeds. Where King George Street passes through a cut further on, there are no shoulders and the roadsides are collapsing. This is part of the “Loop Trail” leading back to Cayuga by walking on the roads.
For our $1.4 million, we are getting a dysfunctional trail, dreamed up by Albert Marshall, and approved and funded by his brother-in-law Councillor Fred Morison. A small portion of this Vibrancy money could have kept South Cayuga Hall contributing to Haldimand’s community for the foreseeable future.
I think we have gone “A Bridge Too Far”.
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