Be patient with underpass work: council

Peggy Revell

With Portage underpass closed to traffic for three weeks instead of the original one week, town council urged residents to continue to be patient and understanding about the difficulty of the project at hand during Monday evening’s council meeting.
“I’ve got to just thank the residents for having the patience they’ve had,” stated Mayor Roy Avis. “Especially this past weekend when on a Saturday morning there was a separation of a train and some residents were stuck on the north end of town for over an hour.”
“This is a long project, this is a three year project, I know the goal of council is to see it completed this year and I’ve got very strong reason to believe that it will be completed this year,” he said, asking people to continue being patient, despite delays.
While originally projected to be closed for just one week in order to complete the west side concrete land slabs, excavation work at the site uncovered that the subgrade was a silty clay material, explained Environmental and Facilities superintendent, Doug Herr, when giving council an update on various projects around town at Monday evening’s council meeting.
This silty clay material has a high moisture contest and “very poor susceptibility for loadings on it,” Herr said, likening it to “Jell-o”
Because of this, excavation of approximately three feet of material occurred and crushed rock material put down in it, so that the workers could work off of it.
Excavation for the subgrade was completed as of Monday, and since then the contractors were putting down the granular base followed by the road bed.
Meanwhile, the contractor is scheduled to begin the formation of the concrete slabs for the road base, which will take two weeks today, with another seven days of waiting for these to set, Herr explained.
The west sidewalk is 99.9 percent complete, with just a chainlink fence left to install.
“Remember when the structure was originally built, it was a superstructure and it was needed by the CN and they built it on their dime,” commented town CAO Mark McCaig on the situation.
In talking with the engineers who worked on the original project, McCaig explained that he was informed that they encountered even “more significant problems” than compared to what the town has seen now.
“When we dig the road up, there’s a lot of unforeseens,” McCaig said, adding that these aren’t always going to be uncovered through soil drillings and other tests.
Coun. Sharon Tibbs pointed out a similar situation back in the 1990s when the town tore up a section of Colonization Road West that leads towards the airport only to discover a similar soil situation.
“The soil conditions underneath were horrific, and it was certainly the reason why that road kept deteriorating over and over and over again in a very short lifespan,” she recounted.
“And at that time we had to, as a community, make a decision that we weren’t going to let that happen again, that we were going to spend the money, excavate, put in a proper base, and I don’t think we’ve touched that section of highway since,” she explained, stressing that sometimes soil conditions underneath are unknown until uncovered.
“You need to deal with them because you’re just wasting money if you’re just putting it back in on top of the same kind [of soil]. It just doesn’t work,” she stated.
“We’re not doing this on a lark, we have to fix the underpass,” McCaig stressed. “We’ve seen significant landslides down there, we’ve seen a crumbling retaining wall structure, and somebody has to do it.”
“So yeah, it has been an inconvenience and there has been some unexpected closures related to it, but it’s something that has to be done and guess who does it? The town,” McCaig said, pointing out that aside from the governments that gave them funding, the town hasn’t had other help for the project, even from CN.
On the same note, Mayor Avis pointed out that CN won’t even pay to paint over the old black paint and clean that part of the underpass.
“So that’s another issue that we’re going to be facing as a town, to clean that up so it makes it look we rebuilt it, otherwise it’s going to look like it’s half completed,” the mayor said.
Biomass roads project
Herr also gave council an update on progress made with the biomass road project between July 27 to Aug. 10.
In this time, the sections of Victoria Avenue and Nelson Avenue that were being worked upon have now been paved and are open to traffic.
Meanwhile on Portage Avenue from Nelson Street to Church, the asphalt and 30 metres of curb has been removed, and both a sanitary sewer and water main have been installed just south of Church Street. The road has been excavated and granular A and B have been placed to mid-block and storm sewer system has also been completed in that section.
On Portage Avenue from Church Street to Scott Street, the asphalt has been removed, 18 metres of water main just from Scott Street south has been installed and they’ve removed half the block curb.
At the Portage and Scott Street intersection, asphalt has been removed, water main and sanitary sewer has been completed, and granular and asphalt placed. It was reopened yesterday afternoon.
On Portage Avenue from Scott Street to First Street, the storm sewer, sanitary sewer have been completed and while the water main has been installed as of Monday evening it had not been tested. The road has been excavated and Granular B placed.
On Portage from Second to Third Street, some work on the sanitary sewer was also done to facilitate the work on the underpass.
And with all the construction taking place, a request that the detour signage was look into was made to Herr by Coun. John Albanese, who explained that he had received calls from truckers who were upset about the lack of clarity ability to maneuver.
Heritage Tourism project
Council also heard updates on various projects from Community Services manager George Bell.
At this point the retaining wall and cradles for the Hallett at its future location by the Sorting Gap Marina have all been installed, Bell said, although being underwater they are not visible.
Meanwhile, the installation of the structure of the lookout tower’s deck and railing has been completed, Bell informed council.
The tower will also be getting a new paint job, he added.
“We just couldn’t get [the old paint] sufficiently off that it would look like it had been refurbished,” he explained. “What they will be doing is testing the paint that is left on it to ensure that there is appropriate enough adhesion that they will be able to paint over it and it won’t peel off.”
“According to progress payments, we’re about 40 percent complete the construction end of it,” Bell said, adding that an additional cost for changes to the tower’s structure and base was $1,827 dollars and the additional costs of the painting will be $34,500 according to the original tender.
Council also was presented with an example of the final generic design of the banners that will be going up, as well as a map that lays out where the approximately 40 street signs and blades that will be installed in the downtown core, La Verendrye Parkway and Scott Street.
“We’ll be installing them all on the southwest corners, unless there’s a really good reason not to. We’re working with Operations and Facilities on that,” Bell explained.
They are still in the process of finalizing the number of interpretive panels and the panel’s copy, Bell said, saying this will be done by Aug. 30.
New library
Work on the library continues to move forward, Bell said, with workers forming and pouring footings and foundations at the site.
“They’re doing quite a bit of excavating for the parking lot,” Bell noted, saying that the plan is to have two-thirds of the parking lot curbed, paved and completed by the end of October, so that it can be usable throughout the winter for those parking at the Memorial Sports Centre.
As the town was unable to secure the “Connecting Link” funding for repairs to Scott Street from Reid Avenue to Colonization Road East—which is where the library project would have secured gravel from—they have instead had to buy gravel.
Also at Monday evening’s meeting, council:
•approved the 2009 service contracts for the delivery of the town’s Children’s Complex Service programs with the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board;
•authorized the payment for the Fun in the Sun’s auditorium rental from the council’s public relations expense;
•approved a tender with Potter Environmental for municipal special or hazardous waste service provider and agreed on the date of Saturday, Sept. 12, for the next Household Hazardous Waste Day. This will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Public Works building on Fifth Street;
•approved a break open ticket licence application from La Verendrye General Hospital Auxiliary at Bonnie Blue from Aug. 14, 2009-Jan. 14, 2010;
•referred a letter from condominium developer Robert Zanette to the Planning and Development executive committee for recommendation;
•referred a financial request from Northwest Ontario’s Sunset Country Travel Association re: annual per capita marketing contribution to the Administration and Finance executive committee for recommendation;
•received correspondence from Anna Carlson and Dave Bourgeault regarding hedges and fences; and
•referred a financial request from the Rainy River Cattlemen’s Association’s sales barn party committee re: 50th anniversary of the Stratton Sales Barn Celebration on Sept. 19 to the Administration and Finance executive committee for recommendation.