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Deadlines? Schmedlines!

Traffic barricades block traffic along Assiniboine Avenue after a garbage truck struck a crossbeam under the Eighth Street Bridge in January. Remember snow?

TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN Enlarge Image

Traffic barricades block traffic along Assiniboine Avenue after a garbage truck struck a crossbeam under the Eighth Street Bridge in January. Remember snow?

Twenty weeks. As of Tuesday, June 3, when I write this, that's how long the Eighth Street Bridge has been closed.

Demolition crews work to remove the damaged concrete bridge supports on the Eighth Street bridge on May 8. At this time, it was believed that the bridge would re-open at the end of the month.

Enlarge Image

Demolition crews work to remove the damaged concrete bridge supports on the Eighth Street bridge on May 8. At this time, it was believed that the bridge would re-open at the end of the month. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)

It was also a Tuesday — Jan. 14 — when a concrete beam on the aging structure was struck by a private garbage truck, sending engineers scrambling to assess it, and forcing the bridge to be closed to all and sundry.

TL;DR

The Eighth Street bridge has been closed for 140 days (and counting). The city has previously promised it'd be open by the end of March, by the end of April and by mid-May.

It's not open yet.

Combined with the 10th Street closure after the Brown Block collapse, this council term has had a major downtown street closed for more than a year of their four-year term.

If I let my house get derelict, I'd have 21 days to fix it up — or I'd be fined and threatened with jail.If my house had been derelict for 140 days, I'd be risking nearly $60,000 in fines and nearly 30 years in jail.

Sigh.

A couple of days later, they okay'd the bridge's re-opening to pedestrians, but kept it closed to vehicles. When spring rolled around, we had to clarify whether "vehicles" included cyclists (it doesn't, in this case). Presumably power wheelchairs and mobility scooters are also okay. So what about lightweight dirt bikes? Smaller motorcycles? Segways?

Twenty weeks is, as I noted on Twitter, longer than Kim Campbell served as Prime Minister. It's also longer than it took the U.S. to send and return the first TWO missions to the Moon.

I took those stats from my popular blog post regarding the Brown Block, which noted all the "past and future milestones" of the building collapse, which forced the closure of 10th Street downtown for 261 days. The Brown Block collapsed on March 15, 2011, and 10th Street didn't re-open until Dec. 1, 2011 – that's 261 days, which is nearly three-quarters of a year.

Now, the Eighth Street Bridge is nearing the half-year mark (it's about 40 per cent of a year right now, with six weeks until the six-month smash-iversary.

Of course, I expect the bridge to re-open fairly soon. But I've expected that before. Here are some notable stories from the past twenty weeks:

We later heard that was pushed until the end of May, but I can't find a story that we may have done on that new deadline.

At any rate, it's now early June, getting into summer. We've made it through two seasons since the bridge was hit.

I'm sure there are "reasons" why it's taking so long, but from the point of view of a frustrated citizen, this is unacceptable.

It's doubly unacceptable because it evokes such strong memories of the Brown Block collapse. Once again, the city is struggling to deal with the closure of a major downtown street for an extended period of time. Haven't they learned?

When you combine the 10th Street closure with the closure of the Eighth Street Bridge, this city council has had more than 27 per cent of their term — and counting — marred by an inability to fix simple infrastructure.

And yes, it is simple.

Fixing the bridge is a matter of bracing it with steel. Clearing 10th Street was some bulldozer work.

The complex stuff is the political wrangling over whose repsonsibility it is, the finger pointing over whose fault it was, and the process wonkery that ties up everything in meetings and tendering.

For ordinary, everyday things, the tendering process makes sense. It ensures that the city gets the best bang for its buck — and that taxpayers, do too. But it adds a significant amount of time to things like repairing a busted bridge.

The bridge was hit on Jan. 14. Tenders didn't close until March 26. Then city council had to approve the selected bid, which happened April 7. That's nearly THREE MONTHS after the bridge was hit before anyone even decided who they'd hire to fix it. And only after that did the chosen contractor get started ordering materials.

I wonder what would happen if I let my house become so derelict that it was unsafe?

Oh, well, under the city's Building Safety & Property Standards By-law, I'd have to board it up and I'd have 21 days "to restore the property and buildings to an acceptable, sightly condition and
occupiable state". I wonder what the city inspector would say if I told them that I couldn't do it in 21 days because I had to go through the tender process?

They'd probably tell me the penalties for missing that deadline. According to the bylaw, it seems I risk a fine of $500 per day. And three months in jail — PER DAY of non-compliance.

So if what's good for the goose is good for the gander, I'd argue that someone at the city is risking $59,500 in fines and nearly 30 years in jail.

But I don't think anyone's scared. They're sure not moving very quickly.

Frankly, it seems like the people in charge are more concerned with covering their butts than in fixing any problems.

Well, I don't think covering their butts is the issue. How about lighting a fire under them.

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