Norfolk County has pencilled in 2021 as the year for completing an ambitious rebuild of the Long Point causeway between Port Rowan and Long Point.
The shifting timeline for the $11-million project is causing some frustration and anxiety in the Port Rowan-Long Point area, Norfolk council heard last week.
“We had a sign there once that said completion by 2018,” Port Rowan Coun. Tom Masschaele said April 2.
“Then the sign was changed to 2019. Now we’re hearing 2021. We don’t want the public to lose faith in our ability to get things done.”
Complicating matters is the fact that the previous council agreed to rebuild the causeway and the old wooden bridge near George Lane simultaneously.
Plans were to replace the bridge in 2025. But that was before it began to fall apart in the spring of 2018. Public works has concluded that significant savings are available by combining the bridge and road reconstruction into a single tender package.
Chris Baird, Norfolk’s general manager of public works, said the county could be rewarded for its patience.
Ottawa and Queen’s Park are due to announce another major round of infrastructure funding. Baird said the causeway project could be well positioned to capitalize on this support.
“We feel this would be a great candidate because we are moving to shovel-readiness,” Baird said.
Baird added the project is about to enter the design phase, something that could take six to eight months to complete.
Baird said council and the community’s vision for a renewed causeway will be committed to paper at this point. After that, Baird suspects construction will go to tender in the spring of 2020.
Norfolk Mayor Kristal Chopp has also received feedback.
There have been three open houses so far regarding the rebuild. The most recent was held during business hours on Jan. 17. Chopp told council the scheduling was inconvenient for some who wanted to be there.
“I got a ton of email and feedback that people weren’t able to attend and get their questions answered,” she said.
Masschaele said many are concerned over the safety of the temporary bridge installed near George Lane. Baird said the rig mat decking is safe and that county staff inspect the causeway daily for safety issues.
Baird added that two-way traffic will be maintained while the new bridge is constructed. This will be achieved with a temporary, parallel structure.
“There will be a degree of complexity,” Baird said. “We will be effectively building two bridges. It’s something we’ve never done before.”
Factoring in the recent installation of 12 eco-passages on the causeway — portals which allow wildlife to pass between Long Point Bay and the Big Creek marsh under the road — and “this project is not very simple,” Baird added.
Projects in ecologically-sensitive areas of Ontario require an environmental assessment (EA). Norfolk has contracted this to Parsons Inc. of London. The EA was completed March 29 and has since entered a 30-day public review period.
“The study is being undertaken to address deteriorating road and bridge conditions as well as transportation needs along the causeway,” the original county notice said.
“Recommendations developed for the corridor will consider the environmental sensitivity and cultural heritage significance of the area as well impacts to local residents and cost.”
A Parsons representative has been invited to speak at the April 23 meeting of Norfolk council. Council members will share their questions at that time.