A late-in-the-game request to consider building the Johnson Street Bridge strong enough to accommodate rail split councillors into two camps.
Newly elected councillors Shellie Gudgeon and Lisa Helps voted in favour of Coun. Ben Isitt’s motion to change course on Feb. 16.
Returning councillors voted to stay the course.
Isitt’s motion entailed preparing a request for tenders to continue planning a bridge with one major alteration: a higher construction standard allowing rail to be added to the span at a future date, if desired.
Mayor Dean Fortin argued the move risked delaying the project and losing a $21 million federal grant.
Coun. Geoff Young voted in step with his fellow returning councillors, despite a two-year history of opposing council’s direction.
“I could see the merits of the motion, and frankly I was balanced on a knife edge on that one,” he said.
Respect for the results of the referendum ultimately swayed his vote.
“We did put a design in front of the public,” he said. “As you know, I didn’t support that design … (but) at the same time I am aware the public was consulted, they did see that design and vote for it.”
In November 2010, 61 per cent of voters endorsed a borrowing bylaw for $49.2 million to replace the bridge with a design that did not include rail.
Ruskin Construction will dismantle the rail portion of the Johnson Street Bridge from Feb. 22 to Feb. 25.
On Wednesday and Thursday, crews will dismantle the electrical and mechanical systems.
On Friday, the rail bridge will be lifted by the largest crane barge in Western Canada. Measuring 100 metres by 30 metres, the barge will fill the entire harbour underneath the bridge.
Once lifted, the rail bridge will be lowered onto the barge. The process will take approximately 30 minutes and will close all traffic on the Johnson Street Bridge.