The waters under this bridge are not troubled – yet. Council and community going to have to work this out.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  February 1, 2012  – The good people in the Glenwood School Drive part of the city, who used to use the bridge that crosses the GO train tracks and gets them out of their close to land locked community and onto Fairview where they can access local amenities, now know that the city isn’t interested in spending $2 million plus to build a new bridge and they also know the city is going to listen to them.

All of a sudden - the bridge was closed.

The Queensway area residents really weren’t prepared as a community to deal with the city when it sat in on a Community Services Development Committee meeting  to consider the options available to replace the bridge that had been shut down for safety reasons.  A couple of people appeared at the Committee but didn’t know they could delegate and the chair of the meeting didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to invite someone forward to the podium to comment.  She did caution them when they got a little noisy.  There was a teachable moment lost that evening.

Built in 1972, the contractor told Jack Pierce that it would last forever. Forever arrived late in November and residents have been hoofing it as best they can to get to schools and Fairview.

The proposed cost of getting a bridge over those railway tracks re-built and operational again was a little too stiff for this council – they were looking at a possible $2.5 million for a bridge that handled some 70 trips a day – but it was clear they had to do something – so rather than debate the matter fully at the Committee meeting on January 18th they asked staff to research the option of putting in a pathway that would run from the northern GO station parking lot  through to Fassel Avenue and doing away with the bridge all together.

Cary Clark of the Engineering department was given this football to carry and ten days to get it all figured out and to his credit he came back with all the data needed to make a decision and maps that made it all clear.

From the right: Paolo Valenti, wife Tanya and Jody Kirkwood met with other community members to work out a strategy to take their concerns to city hall

While staff were doing their work the community was also learning about what it could achieve.   They had put together a petition and got 240 signatures on it and gave it to the ward Councillor and then organized as a community to delegate the city.  This time around they were prepared – they had sixteen people who were ready to stand at the podium and tell the city what they wanted and why.  They met with the Marianne Mead Ward, their council member and went through the process and prepared their plan.

Because there was some urgency the Committee that first heard the problem referred it to Council which was meeting ten days later – which is unusual for this council, but it did expedite the situation.

Alas, the residents didn’t get a chance to do their thing at the Council meeting.  The city decided to defer the matter to a full committee meeting, which made sense, but could the city not have found a way to tell the residents the matter was going to be deferred?  There were some 25, perhaps 30 people from the community in the Council Chamber waiting for their chance to speak.  Many of the parents brought the kids with them which made the Council Chamber feel like a day care centre.  They will all be back in February to discuss the solutions the city engineers have come up with.

Ramona Canney of Brinell Avenue has something to say to the committee as does Rohan Nazareth of Glendale Court.  Add to that list Alicia Lovatsis and Sharron Thompson. Gabrial and Olivia Kirkwood and their friends Lainey and Hailey Simpson will take to the podium and speak for the youth in the community.  Paolo Valenti from Glenwood School Drive has become the leader for the community and is learning quickly how city hall works.  He will soon learn whether or not city hall wants to listen,

The biggest nut that had to be dealt with by the city is the price tag – the clear sense from Council members was that a $2 million replacement bridge was just not on.  Here are the options put forward:

Option #1:  A path that would run from the northern GO station parking lot eastward close to 400 metres and then go north on the same path until they join up with the west end of Fassel Avenue.  To make this one work the city has to acquire six very small parcels of land from four different owners and a bridge has to be built over Rambo Creek.  The Conservation Authority gets involved with anything over any of the creeks in Burlington.  This option will come in at $880,000 which includes the $100,000 to demolish the bridge that is no longer safe.

The pathway would be paved with lighting and a chain link fence to separate the pathway and the private property.  Some property owners might want to have gate opened up for them so they could slip out onto the path.  If they do – get your suggestion along to your ward Councillor or to the city engineering department.  The city will tell you that you will have to pay for that gate but if you make your request one of the conditions for being nice, nice about losing your bridge this just might manage to get gates put in free at no cost to you.  Don’t be shy about asking

Option # 1 has a 400 metre path that runs just north of the GO tracks into the northern GO parking lot where people could then take the pedestrian tunnel south to the other side of the tracks and then connect with Fairview.

 

Option # 2 is quite a bit cheaper for the city but there are some significant concerns with how CN rail will react to having the GO train platforms used as a side walk for Glenwood School Drive resident to use as their side walk to the tunnels that will get them to and from Fairview.  Some safety concerns for young people walking along those platforms was also mentioned – but if the kids aren’t smart enough to be careful, perhaps they shouldn’t be out by themselves.

The route for option #2 is the same as # 1  – residents would walk to the west end of Fassel south on a path which would extend a little bit further and cross some rail tracks and end at the extreme east end of the northern side of the GO train platforms.  There is then a longish walk along the platform to the first tunnel under the tracks that would get residents to the south side parking lot where buses come into the south parking lot.

Option 2 has the residents crossing under the GO tracks and being at the almost extreme east end of the north side of the GO platform. CN might have a problems with people not taking the train using the platform.

 

This option is quite a bit cheaper $370,000.00 which includes the $100,000 to demolish the existing bridge.

How would genuine community engagement

have made this a better situation for everyone?

How different would this situation have been if there was a Community Engagement Charter in place and the city had someone on staff whose job it was to get out into the community and ask people – “how can I help you with the problem you are having?”

Burlington is at the beginning of the process of pulling together a team that will actually write the charter – but that isn’t going to be available for at least six months.  In the meantime  this Council could show the community that they are there to help and to serve.  Stay tuned.

 

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