Town putting underpass job out to tender

The town immediately will tender out the Portage Avenue underpass rehabilitation project after approving a report from Operations and Facilities manager Doug Brown at Monday night’s council meeting.
But whether the job actually takes place this summer still remains to be seen.
Brown stressed going ahead with the project depends entirely on whether the town’s application to the Canada-Ontario Rural Infrastructure Fund (COMRIF) goes through.
After having discussions with Coun. Tannis Drysdale and Fort Frances CAO Mark McCaig, who met with Public Infrastructure Renewal minister David Caplan last month, Brown noted COMRIF received 350 applications for funding this year, totalling $1.3 billion in all.
But COMRIF is a five-year program where only $900 million was allocated. “Thus it appears a substantial shortfall in funding exists,” said Brown.
Fort Frances is slated to hear back on the funding by April 10—the same time as every other COMRIF applicant. At this time, the town will know if COMRIF will pay for two-thirds of the project, which has been estimated to cost $1.7 million.
In that case, the town would have to foot its share of the bill—roughly $562,000 (funding for the underpass work already has been factored into the 2005 capital budget).
Brown noted the tender should go out now because not only will it establish exact costs for the rehabilitation work, but the town should receive better pricing if tendering takes place prior to all COMRIF recipients doing so at once.
As well, if the COMRIF application is unsuccessful this year, the tender results could be used to apply to the program in the future.
The request for proposals will contain a clause notifying contractors that the project hinges on the success of the COMRIF grant, so that if the COMRIF funding doesn’t come through, the contractor would know ahead of time.
If the COMRIF funding goes through, and a suitable contractor is found and approved for the job, the town would like to get the project started by May 1, noted Brown.
As previously reported, one lane of traffic will be open at all time during the underpass work, and at no time should residents be forced to take alternate north-south routes, such as McIrvine Road or the emergency crossing at Victoria Avenue.
The work on the underpass will be done in two phases—the west side first, then the east side—and should take about 16 weeks to complete.
The project will consist of replacing 180 metres of concrete from Third Street East to Fifth Street East, putting in new retaining walls, as well as a new sidewalk and handrail on the west side of the street.
The work also will include modifications to the railway abutment structures (installation of soil anchors), putting up new chain link fences, and upgrading to the storm sewer system (pump house and piping).
The existing roadway also will be reinforced and modified, with a view towards having an alternate truck route to the north sometime down the road.