Simon and Garfunkel once sang about a Bridge Over Troubled Water; Queens County goes one better with a troubled bridge over water.
The county is one step closer to finding out if and when the Trestle Trail Bridge could be re-opened, thanks in part to an upcoming engineering assessment.
Brian Hatt, president of the Queens Rails to Trails Association, told councillors at a recent Region of Queens municipal council meeting that a tender had been awarded to engineering consulting firm CBCL Limited
CBLC won the tender over two other potential firms after the association sent out requests for proposals to four businesses.
"CBCL was the lowest bid, [and] has local experience in the South Shore area with multiple examples of this type of repair work," said Hatt.
CBCL will also execute the repair plan along with cost estimates. However, the initial engineering assessment will be done to the tune of $18,365 - a much cheaper price than the previous municipal government initially anticipated.
Back in 2015, several months after the bridge was closed to the public due to safety concerns, municipal staff gave a range of estimates for an engineering assessment from $140,000 to $200,000.
The costs associated with the assessment, coupled with the fact that it could still mean taking the bridge down in the end, led to a stand-still of the situation by the previous council until Rails to Trails stepped in.
David Dagley, mayor of the municipality, says he suspects the competitive nature of the tendering process lowered the cost of the assessment, as well as previous working relationships between CBCL and the Rails to Trails association.
"The previous administration did not request a firm price from an engineering firm ... so we don't have an exact figure, the numbers thrown around at the time were $175,000 to $200,000, and they may have been accurate from that company, but again competition is good and the engineering firm does have a soft spot for the ATV associations.
"So in that respect I believe they are getting a very good price on their tender," said Dagley, adding CBCL has experience in assessing and repairing former railroad bridges like the Trestle.
CN Rail at one point owned the Trestle Trail Bridge. In 1996 the structure was turned over to the municipality. In 1999, the municipality transformed the bridge into a walking bridge connecting a trail from one side of Liverpool to the other.
The bridge was closed in November 2014 after an engineering study by Amec Foster Wheeler found deterioration on the north walls, piers one and four, and the south abutment. The study marked the third done on the bridge since 1999.
The bridge closure led to public meetings and a community uproar.
In 2016 the Queens Rails to Trails Association signed a letter of authority with the Region of Queens for funding options to fix the bridge and establish a shared-use trail in Liverpool that would include off-road vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, hikers and horseback riders.
By sharing the trail with the association, doors to different revenue streams were opened and meant that the municipality would no longer have to foot the entire bill for an assessment and possible repairs.
After Hatt's presentation to council, council approved a $5,000 grant to assist the association in paying for the assessment. The association requested the money earlier this year and it was paid using the previous year's operating surplus. Hatt says the group is still securing funding for the remaining portion of the bill, however, he hopes the assessment will be carried out by December.
In the meantime the association plans a public meeting for November.
There are multiple recommendations that could be put forward after the assessment is complete, including repairs for shared use or even taking it down. If that's the case, Dagley said at a previous meeting, that will be a discussion for council.
Still, Hatt is hopeful.
"We're still planning 2018 for completion," said Hatt. "That could change because of that assessment, We could be on the bridge in three months depending on the assessment, whether they deem it safe to use or not."
If repairs go ahead, funding will be sought from multiple avenues including the federal, municipal, and provincial governments, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the Nova Scotia Off Highway Vehicles Fund.
If the trail opens next fall it will connect several other ATV and shared-use trails along the South Shore and up to Halifax.