Municipal officials told The Chatham Voice how frustrated they are at the fact the Third Street Bridge is not yet done and now has no official opening date.
“I would like to be driving across that bridge on Friday,” Mayor Darrin Canniff said of the planned re-opening date. “But unfortunately the railings aren’t there.”
That is indeed the holdup. Canniff and Chris Thibert, the municipality’s director of engineering, said the delay is due to missing pedestrian safety railings that have not yet been delivered to the construction site.
The railings in question go along the outside edges of the bridge providing pedestrian and vehicular safety. These are also the railings that will contain the new LED light strips to shine onto the sidewalks.
Without these railings, the bridge will remain closed to the public due to safety concerns as the provincial Ministry of Labour will continue to consider the bridge as an active construction site.
There’s no timeline on when the railings will be installed. However, Thibert dispelled a rumour and said some elements could arrive as soon as later today.
“I just called our general contractor and he confirmed the supplier did not go out of business,” he said. “I hear some of the railings are expected to be delivered later tonight.”
However, it won’t be the entire shipment.
Aldo Paganelli, president of Toronto Zenith, said the railings have not been completed by the firm contracted to fabricate the rail.
“This is very rare for this fabricator,” Paganelli said in a media release. “We work with trusted, professional companies. We are extremely disappointed, and as president of Toronto Zenith, the responsibility ultimately lies with me. I apologize to the citizens of Chatham-Kent. We will make this situation right.”
Regardless, the bridge remains closed and penalties to Toronto Zenith to the tune of at least $1,500 a day will begin Friday.
“The penalties are called liquidated damages,” Thibert said. “For every day the contract is late following the 22nd (of July), it’s $1,500 per day.”
He added the municipality also has the ability to seek further damages, should additional expenses arise due to the delay. And they will, Thibert said.
“One example is we have a consultant on this project. They have a cost per day to be on site. Their contract technically expires on Friday and now we have to extend this contract,” he said.
Through all the delays – two lanes were to be opened back in November of last year, and then the June 30 re-opening deadline was missed, and now this – Thibert stands by Toronto Zenith, a company the City of Toronto opted to cut out of project bidding for a period of one year back in 2019.
“I’d consider using them again. I speak highly of them. They’ve dealt with a very complicated bridge structure, they’ve dealt with the flood (in September), COVID, labour shortages and material shortages,” he said. “They’ve worked extended hours; they’ve really worked hard.”
He said when the municipality was looking at hiring Toronto Zenith, they reached out to the City of Toronto to learn more.
“We got a lot of background on that. I can’t disclose all the information. It was a lot of misunderstanding between the City of Toronto and Toronto Zenith,” Thibert said. “Toronto Zenith is committed to building their reputation back up. We chose them and I’m thankful we did.”
Meanwhile, Bridgerama, an event tailored to celebrate the bridge’s re-opening, will still take place on Saturday. The event gets underway on Saturday, at 11 a.m. It will feature entertainment, sales, arts and crafts, and stories through to 7 p.m.