5th Street Bridge FAQs
- What should I expect during construction?
- Why is the bridge project taking longer than originally planned?
- Will the bridge remain open to vehicle traffic?
- Why did bridge traffic need to be reduced to one lane?
- How will pedestrian and cycling access be maintained during construction?
- Why did the 5th Street Bridge need to be rehabilitated?
- Who is completing the work?
- When was the last investment in the bridge made?
- How has the bridge improved?
- How does this project compare to other recent bridge projects?
- How will these repairs affect the bridge’s lifespan?
- Can’t the bridge just be repainted?
- Have you considered adding another vehicle lane to the 5th Street Bridge?
- Would it be more cost-effective to build a brand new bridge?
- How much will the bridge rehabilitation cost?
- Why have the costs increased since the earlier estimates were developed?
- What would be the anticipated costs for an average taxpayer?
- What measures are being taken to reduce construction time and costs?
- What is the construction schedule?
- Can the work be scheduled to minimize impacts to summer and holiday shopping seasons?
- When was the decision made to rehabilitate the 5th Street Bridge?
- How was the waterway below the bridge protected during the work?
- Will you use local suppliers to repair the bridge?
- How can I learn more?
What should I expect during construction?
Construction began on Thursday, April 15, 2021. The bridge reopened to two-way vehicle traffic in February. The contractor is completing finishing touches and demobilizing in March.
What you will hear:
Construction noise between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. six days per week, some evenings, and Sundays. Some phases of work were louder than others.
What you will see:
- crews, equipment, and materials
- site office
- the bridge covered in scaffolding and plastic wrapping
- traffic congestion around bridge
- detours and safety signage
Why is the bridge project taking longer than originally planned?
The original timeline estimated the project to be complete at the end of October 2021. The complexity of the scaffolding system, skilled labour shortages and weather have all factored into the extended timeline. The last step in the project was the final concrete pour, which was weather dependant. The bridge returned to two-way traffic in February. The contractor will likely complete decommissioning of the construction site in March.
Will the bridge remain open to vehicle traffic?
Yes, the bridge has remained open during construction. Traffic was reduced to a single lane with alternating flows. Brief intermittent periods of full closure were required at times. Traffic patterns have now returned to normal.
As the City of Courtenay recognized that a full closure of the bridge would result in significant impacts to the community, the project budget included $700,000 to keep the bridge open to one lane of traffic during construction.
Why did bridge traffic need to be reduced to one lane?
The 5th Street Bridge was coated in lead paint that had to be removed to address the corrosion within the steel. To protect the surrounding environment, the bridge was wrapped for a significant portion the project. Metal scaffolding around the bridge was covered in plastic wrapping to prevent lead paint and other contaminants from entering the marine environment and surrounding area. This scaffolding limited the available lane width on the bridge as well as reduced overhead clearance.
Following the removal of the overhead scaffolding, subsequent deck repairs were performed one lane at a time, requiring continued single-lane alternating traffic. The bridge has since reopened to two-way traffic.
How will pedestrian and cycling access be maintained during construction?
Maintaining safe access for all modes of transportation is a priority for the project team. Access for all modes of traffic will be maintained throughout construction.
Dedicated space on the bridge deck is provided for people who walk and cyclists walking their bike across. Once the work to recoat the bridge is complete and focus shifts to deck repairs, the temporary walkway will be removed, and sidewalk access will reopen for pedestrians.
Cyclists may also use the priority vehicle lane and ride across the bridge.
Underpasses on both ends of the 5th Street Bridge will remain closed for the duration of the project.
Why did the 5th Street Bridge need to be rehabilitated?
Originally constructed in 1960, the 5th Street Bridge is an important transportation connection in the Comox Valley, linking key networks to downtown and beyond. The entire region depends on the 5th Street Bridge as a primary route across the Courtenay River.
Although the bridge has had regular maintenance over the past decades, as with any major asset, periodic major maintenance and repairs will be required throughout its lifespan. Other initiatives over previous decades have included repainting; however, these layers have built up, including lead paint, and rust underneath these layers needs to be removed.
To protect the marine environment, the lead paint must be removed and captured carefully.
The first phase of work focusses on the bridge coating and the second phase will include structural steel repairs to the deck beams and repairing the bridge deck.
Who is completing the work?
The City of Courtenay awarded the contract for the rehabilitation of the 5th Street Bridge to Park Derochie, an industry leader in bridge rehabilitation projects, specializing in blast cleaning, coatings, and scaffolding.
When was the last investment in the bridge made?
Bridge inspections and maintenance are conducted regularly to assess bridge condition. The last major rehabilitation work was completed in 2012. It included seismic upgrades through the replacement of deck expansion joints and the application of a corrosion-resistant coating to the underside of the bridge. The project also replaced areas of damaged concrete along with bridge deck maintenance and sealing.
How has the bridge improved?
The rehabilitation project included removal of the existing overlay, bridge deck repair, structural steel repairs to the deck beams, refurbished handrails, removal of the lead paint and rust, recoating of the steel structure, and new road markings. The new bridge coating will protect the bridge from rust and corrosion as well as improve its appearance.
How does this project compare to other recent bridge projects?
No two bridges are exactly the same and as a result the scope and budget of each bridge rehabilitation or replacement can vary significantly based on a variety of factors including age, where it is located, how it was built, amenities, width and span, and geotechnical conditions. However, the type of repairs being made are common and typical for this type of bridge, built in 1960.
How will these repairs affect the bridge’s lifespan?
As part of a proactive asset management program, regular ongoing inspections of the bridge identify routine maintenance, monitor overall condition, and identify any deterioration.
It is estimated that it will be 20 or more years before additional bridge refurbishment is required. This is a conservative estimate and does not mean that the bridge will have reached the end of its intended lifespan in 20 years.
Can’t the bridge just be repainted?
The lead paint was failing and needed to be completely removed and replaced. Typical of bridges built during this period, lead paint was originally used to coat the steel. To recoat the bridge, the lead paint was carefully removed to reveal bare metal before being recoated. The removal of the lead paint required that the bridge be “wrapped”, including scaffolding, to prevent the lead paint and other contaminants from entering the environment. It was essential to remove the lead paint properly. This process was time consuming, noisy, and had many safety considerations to avoid negative impacts to the environment and human health.
A bridge coating system is one of the most effective ways of protecting a steel bridge as it repels moisture, preventing corrosion of the structure. The new fresh green coating is be lead-free.
Have you considered adding another vehicle lane to the 5th Street Bridge?
Increasing the vehicle capacity of the 5th Street Bridge was considered as part of the Transportation Master Plan process, through detailed traffic models by traffic engineering consultants. Widening the bridge was ultimately not recommended because it was determined that bridge traffic would encounter traffic flow issues, or bottlenecks, on the roads on either end of the bridge, and any improvements would be minimal and would not justify the substantial additional cost. Even if traffic consultants had recommended widening, there would have been significant structural upgrades required, and after preliminary consideration, it is uncertain if the current structure would support an additional lane and motorized vehicles.
Would it be more cost-effective to build a brand new bridge?
Rehabilitation options for the 5th Street Bridge cost much less than a full replacement. Engineers specializing in bridge construction and rehabilitation estimate replacement costs to be $25 million - $30 million, taking into account the current market and construction cost escalation experienced on Vancouver Island over the last several years. Engineers have determined the 5th Street Bridge has not reached the end of its useful life, and it would be premature to consider replacing it at this time. Rehabilitation was required, and it is one of the City’s core responsibilities to maintain the integrity of our infrastructure assets for the benefit of our community.
How much will the bridge rehabilitation cost?
The project budget to rehabilitate the 5th Street Bridge based on current estimates is $6.5 million. The construction contract is valued at $5.4 million. Additional project costs include project management, traffic optimizations, and contingency.
The City of Courtenay has received $1.96 million in grant funding from the New Building Canada – Small Communities Fund. The remainder of the project costs will be funded by the City of Courtenay.
After factoring in grant contributions and infrastructure reserves, the City needs to borrow funds to rehabilitate the bridge. Electoral approval was obtained through the Alternative Approval Process (AAP) in fall 2020. Learn more: www.courtenay.ca/aap.
Why have the costs increased since the earlier estimates were developed?
Since the initial estimates were developed in 2015 the construction market on Vancouver Island has boomed, and the bridge condition has continued to deteriorate. The new estimates reflect the market escalation that has occurred, and the increased costs associated with the additional repair required. Costs would continue to increase the longer rehabilitation was delayed and the bridge condition would continue to deteriorate.
What would be the anticipated costs for an average taxpayer?
Annual debt servicing costs for this project are estimated at $233,293 over 20 years and would cost the average residential property owner approximately $13 per year.
Additional funding will be provided through $1.96 million in federal and provincial grants, and the remainder from reserve funds.
What measures are being taken to reduce construction time and costs?
Bridges serve an important role in our communities and require thoughtful consideration when it comes to repair and investment. The City is committed to identifying all possible ways to expedite the timeline while ensuring public safety and minimizing costs. While every effort is being made to mitigate negative impacts wherever possible, some impacts will be unavoidable during construction. The decision to rehabilitate the bridge was not made lightly; it considered the bridge’s potential service lifespan, the impact on taxpayers, the need to maintain public safety and protect the environment, and various guidelines from regulatory agencies regarding engineering standards, public safety, and the environment.
Included in the contract for this work is a provision for compensation owed to the City if the project runs over-schedule due to the actions of the contractor.
What is the construction schedule?
Construction began on Thursday, April 15, 2021. The bridge reopened to two-way vehicle traffic in February and the contractor is demobilizing in March.
The schedule was impacted by scaffolding installation and labour shortages. The complex geometry of the bridge scaffolding required several weeks longer than anticipated to complete. This intricate scaffolding system was key to safely completing all phases of work while keeping the bridge open to traffic.
An issue across many sectors, a shortage of specialized workers affected the project’s progress and prevented additional measures to potentially make up the time, such as working double shifts, or working 24 hours per day.
Can the work be scheduled to minimize impacts to summer and holiday shopping seasons?
The project team has worked to reduce impacts to the community where possible; however, due to the nature of the work, some impacts are unavoidable.
Winter construction presents additional challenges to the construction process. Ideal weather conditions for new paint and concrete is during the warmer, drier months.
Additional budget was added to the project to maintain access for all modes of traffic during construction. It was felt that closing the bridge to traffic would have a significant impact on the community and in particular downtown.
When was the decision made to rehabilitate the 5th Street Bridge?
On Monday, June 24, 2019, City Council directed staff to proceed with next steps towards rehabilitating the bridge, as well as widened cantilevered pathways to improve cycling and pedestrian access.
On February 3, 2020, following review of advanced design for construction staging and scheduling, options for pedestrian and cyclist connectivity, and stakeholder and public engagement, City Council directed staff to remove the cantilever option from the bridge design, and direct resources for improving connectivity for pedestrians and cyclists across the Courtenay River through a dedicated 6th Street pedestrian and cyclist bridge. Learn more about the 6th Street Bridge Project
How was the waterway below the bridge protected during the work?
The bridge was coated in lead paint. As a result, there were significant environmental and safety requirements to ensure the paint is properly collected and disposed of. The bridge was wrapped in a plastic containment system to prevent contamination of the surrounding area. The heavy-duty plastic wrap covered the scaffolding, creating enclosed areas for crews to complete the work and to capture any paint debris. The fresh new green coating is lead-free.
Will you use local suppliers to repair the bridge?
While bridge repairs of this scale are highly specialized, major construction projects typically call on local suppliers for at least some portions of the work, and there will be subcontractors from the Comox Valley area working on this project.
How can I learn more?
Proactive communications are an essential part of this project to ensure timely information is conveyed to the travelling public, business community, and residents living in, or travelling through, the area.
Stay informed on social media, visit the project webpage, and sign up to receive regular updates by email: www.courtenay.ca/5thstreetbridge,