The latest cost estimate to repair the Eight Street bridge: $87,700.
The fine levelled against the driver of the garbage truck that struck the bridge’s lateral support last January: $203.80.
That Manitoba Public Insurance customers will likely pay the cost of repairs — and not taxpayers or the trucking company responsible: priceless.
If the City of Brandon is successful in its claim with MPI, the public insurance company will pay the brunt, if not all of the cost of repair to the Eighth Street bridge, of which the price tag is now double the original estimate.
“We’ve made the claim, and our expectation is it will be 100 per cent cost relief,” city manager Scott Hildebrand said. “There’s always factors that may be unforeseen, but we do expect to get 100 per cent of it back, just like anybody would through a vehicle accident.”
In an interview with the Sun this week, MPI spokesman Brian Smiley confirmed that the garbage truck was insured and had a valid policy. What happens in situations where a vehicle hits a structure, he said, is that MPI will negotiate a claim and “ultimately pay the cost that the vehicle was responsible for.”
So instead of taxpayers paying for repairs, those Manitobans who pay for car insurance and/or a driver’s licence will be footing the bill, ultimately.
We understand the reasons for having insurance, and the usefulness of this kind of repayment structure. But doesn’t it seem just a bit unfair that the driver that caused the bridge damage in the first place gets away with a slap on the wrist? Doesn’t the company have any responsibility to pitch in for repairs?
We’re not really faulting the city here — no pun intended. Attempting to go through MPI instead of having to find new money within the city budget makes sense. It’s just a shame that people who did not have any part of causing the damage will have to shoulder a piece of the financial costs to repair the bridge through their insurance fees.
At the same time, however, the bridge has now been closed for 87 days and counting. The idea of a quick repair was a good one, and it’s unfortunate that the timeline has been further extended.
Hildebrand said having only two operating bridges has actually “gone fairly well,” in terms of traffic flow, saying that he has not seen the “congestion and the issues that we once thought,” if and when the Eighth Street bridge was to close. While that may be true, it’s cold comfort to Brandon residents who tend to use the Eighth Street bridge and have been affected by its closure.
Originally, not long after the bridge was closed on Jan. 14, the city estimated the cost of the repair would be $40,000 and had expected it to be open in February. As we now know, the damage was more extensive than first believed.
It was also hoped that the city could avoid the tendering process, as the bridge repair was considered a “semi-emergency.”
It was later determined that it would still have to go out for tender, which also added to the delay. The reasoning, said city spokesperson Allison Collins in an email yesterday, was that as per The Municipal Act, “spending that isn’t already provided for in the City’s approved Financial Plan must be tendered and must come to Council for approval.”
From that point, city staff needed to prepare and amend the tender package, and the tender then opened on March 12 and closed on March 26.
As the tender was finally awarded on Monday, the city now anticipates it will take two to three weeks for the contractor to order in the product, followed by one to two weeks for construction. Hildebrand said he expects the bridge to be back open for regular operation by mid-May.
If we put that timeline at about May 15, (that’s mid-Mayish), that puts the length of time the bridge will be closed to traffic at 121 days.
The process to make repairs does take time, certainly. But perhaps The Municipal Act needs a little adjustment to help municipalities expedite these kinds of situations when they come up. It’s foolish for the city’s hands to be tied like this, and just adds unnecessary time to what should be a relatively simple process.