The $100.8 million Burgoyne Bridge Replacement Project is no longer the largest and most expensive infrastructure investment in Niagara Regional Government’s history.
A $399.6 million sewage treatment facility in south Niagara Falls will exceed the bridge in cost and cover an area approximately 100 football fields off Reixinger Road Rd.
It is just one of many infrastructure projects aimed at replacing end-of-life assets, including the replacement of the Burgoyne Bridge which opened in 2016. The original span was built to cross the valley of Twelve Mile Creek in 1915.
“What’s happening with infrastructure, probably across Canada, but certainly in Ontario and Niagara, is that most of it was built 50 or 60 years ago and often needs replacing. or repaired,” Niagara Region Chair Jim Bradley said.
“You can compare it to a person with a house in a housing estate where the houses were all built at the same time. You will notice that everyone starts getting a new roof after about 20 years.
“I think what we’re seeing, and what we’ll see more in the future, is that the life of the infrastructure is coming to an end in terms of not replacing or making major repairs.”
Staff reports for the new processing plant show that 64% of growth in Niagara Falls will be south of Lundy’s Lane, and 22.5% of development is expected to come south of the Welland River. The new facility will accommodate existing and new flows in south Niagara Falls while helping to relieve pressure on systems in Thorold, St. Catharines and Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The cost of many of the projects is split between the provincial and federal governments and the region. Individual municipalities also participate in specific projects. In 2016, the Region’s infrastructure deficit was then estimated at $185 million.
While provincial and federal governments can run deficits and have access to multiple streams of taxes and fees, municipal governments are limited primarily to property taxes and are not allowed to run a deficit.
That means some councilors will tell their counterparts and staff that taxpayers can’t afford the proposed tax increases for big projects.
“It comes back every year, and I don’t blame them,” said area administrative manager Ron Tripp. “Someone will say we can’t afford the tax increases, but you can’t afford not to do the job either.”
In the past, postponing projects was often the answer to overnight budget stalemates.
However, it comes with bigger headaches, as replacement costs increase dramatically and the increasing frequency of repairs becomes more expensive, Tripp said.
A nightmare scenario for every city chief executive and director of public works occurred south of the border in 2007. A bridge on Interstate 35 West in Minnesota collapsed into the Mississippi River during rush hour, killing 13 people. The bridge was to be replaced in 2020.
Regional governments are, by nature, asset-intensive organizations, and the Niagara region is no exception.
The region’s Corporate Services Commissioner, Todd Harrison, and his staff oversee more than $7.4 billion in assets. The Council has a new Asset Management Program and a Corporate Asset Management Office to help you along the way.
“Before, it was easy not to invest in your infrastructure because it wasn’t really registered anywhere,” Harrison said. “We didn’t have it on the balance sheet. It’s an accounting issue, but the balance sheets didn’t show your assets and fixed assets and what was owed. It’s all changed.
“Higher levels of government have started to demand sustainable asset management plans, so we need to start investing in organizational sustainability,” Harrison added. “If you don’t have the money and it breaks, you have to fix it. It costs you more if you don’t have a proper design and all the other stuff already in place.
Here are the main projects undertaken or in development by the Region.
- South Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Plant, capital investment: $399.6 million (including related projects)
- Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrade, Capital Investment: $52 million
- Niagara-on-the-Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant Expansion, Capital Investment: $47.9 million
- DeCew Plant 3 water treatment plant upgrade, capital investment: $41.7 million, St. Catharines
Transit and transportation
Since 2018, the region has spent more than $260 million on its 770 kilometers of roads and 130 bridges while expanding transit options for residents with improved GO Transit train service and a bus system integrated regional.
- Burgoyne Bridge, capital investment: $100.8 million, St. Catharines
- GO Transit, capital investment: $40 million
- Niagara Transit Commission, capital investment: $48.6 million, region-wide
Economic growth and development
The region’s new economic plan – the first comprehensive overhaul in 50 years – attempts to position Niagara to manage growth while attracting good jobs and helping to protect against climate change.
- Canada Summer Games, capital investment: $101.4 million, region wide
- Niagara Region Official Plan adopted June 2022, financial investment: $3 million, region-wide
Support for vulnerable people
The region’s strategic plan states that healthy residents lead to stronger and more resilient communities. This means continuing to invest in caring for the elderly and those struggling to meet their basic needs.
A.) New Residential Developments in the Niagara Region
- Hawkins Avenue (73 units), capital investment: $20,915,000, Niagara Falls
- York Street (43 units), capital investment: $13,700,000, Welland (target completion December)
B.) Bridging Housing and Supportive Housing
The Region also invests in housing solutions combining affordable housing assistance with voluntary support services to meet the needs of people experiencing chronic homelessness.
- Buchanan Avenue (25 units), capital investment: $4,418,100, Niagara Falls
- Victoria Avenue (15 units), capital investment: $4,550,000, Niagara Falls
C.) Long-Term Care Home Redevelopment
- Linhaven, capital investment: $105.6 million, St. Catharines
- Gilmore Lodge, capital investment: $85.9 million, Fort Erie