Options sought to replace aging Port Drive trestle

NANAIMO – Only access point to newly acquired property will be decommissioned in 2016.

An aging trestle that connects Nanaimo’s downtown to industrial lands recently purchased by the city will likely have to be closed in 2016 according to a report, leaving officials to determine if it should be rebuilt or find another access point.

In March the city acquired 10.8 hectares of land at 1 Port Dr. for $3.4 million to turn the industrial site into a better use, likely a transportation hub, in partnership with the Regional District of Nanaimo.

Both organizations signed a memorandum of understanding on the project in May, and a concept plan for the property is currently underway.

The trestle has already undergone $103,000 in repairs – cost sharing is being considered by the Nanaimo Port Authority – and an engineering firm estimates it will cost an additional $30,000 to $45,000 annually to maintain the wooden structure until 2016.

The 100-metre viaduct, estimated to be between 60 and 80 years old, is the only point of access connecting Esplanade Street to the Nanaimo Port Authority’s assembly wharf and cruise ship terminal.

According to the report, a statutory right of way agreement does not mention who is responsible for the repairs, but under common law the city has no legal obligation to the port to repair or replace the trestle. Under the Occupiers Liability Act, however, the city is responsible for ensuring those who use the trestle are safe and aware of its current state.

On Monday, council directed city staff to pursue options for future access to the site.

If we don’t have to use that wooden trestle we can just get rid of it totally and use a road that would be way better but we’ll see what staff comes back with,” said Coun. Ted Greves.

One option being considered is a new flat road access from Front Street, and Herold Engineering Ltd., which has been assessing the trestle since 1998, indicated three replacement options ranging in price from $3.7 million to $5 million.

Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan said the complexity of the property due to different ownerships, right of ways and leases make it an onerous task.

The big issue is the existing leases on the property and the rail and so forth so it does create a challenge but the motion will look at these different things,” he said.

Staff is expected to bring forward options to council at a future council meeting.