Trafalgar and Avonfoot bridges to be closed, removed

Clem Bolton’s threshing machine crosses the Trafalgar bridge in 1908. (Submitted photo) (Click on photo for full size)
By Dan Rankin
Completing a process that was initiated almost two years ago with environmental assessments on Perth South’s Trafalgar and Avonfoot bridges, the township council has moved to close the sections of road leading to both bridges effective Nov. 2 and remove the bridge structures.

Current day photos of the bridge
At its Sept. 15 meeting Director of Public Works Ken Bettles presented background on the issue, indicating that engineering firm RJ Burnside was retained to conduct environmental assessments on the bridge in July 2014 “to establish the appropriate course of action for the requirements of the Trafalgar and Avonfoot bridges as both were nearing the ends of their useful service life and both currently have load restrictions.”
Perth South staff recommended to council that they accept RJ Burnside’s recommendations “identified as removal of the bridge structures and closure of the roads to through traffic.”
The road closures will be Line 12 between Line 14 and Road 137 for the 110-year-old Trafalgar Bridge, and Line 14 at the Avon River for the Avonfoot Bridge.
The Trafalgar bridge, built in 1905, is a single-span, pin-connected steel truss bridge and one of very few of its kind left in Ontario. The Avonfoot Bridge was built in 1925. Both accommodate just one lane of traffic.
An appeal period following the presentation of the environmental assessments closed at the end of August with no appeals issued.
In a recorded vote, council moved to close the roads and bridges, as well as authorizing RJ Burnside to “prepare documents and let a tender for the bridge removals.” The only votes against the measure were from Coun. Melinda Zurbrigg and Coun. Bill Jeffrey, who were opposed to a decision that would close both bridges at once.
“I think we need to make the real decision,” said Coun. Stuart Arkett. “The rest of the township is not going to be happy to pay for either a new bridge or repairs on a little local bridge not many people are using.
“If I was right next door and was used to that route, I’d feel bad too,” he said. “But if you’re going to save this bridge, something else is going to have to give in the budget. Think about that, what else are you willing to give up if you’re going to keep patching this bridge?”
Included in the bridge removal process is a plan to “cut out and save some components from the Trafalgar Bridge that have heritage value for future display.”
The cost to prepare and tender the work is included in the 2015 budget. The cost of completing the physical removal, which is to be identified in the tenders, will need to be included in the 2016 budget or taken from bridge reserves.