Big bucks needed for historic bridge

Nearly R30 million will be spent on rehabilitating the old wooden bridge, one of Milnerton's oldest landmarks.

Eighty percent of Milnerton’s historic wooden bridge is unsalvageable, says the City of Cape Town, which now plans to rebuild the 115-year-old landmark at a cost of R30 million. The restoration project is expected to take two years and will see much of the bridge rebuilt with new timber.

Transport for Cape Cape (TCT) presented its plans for the bridge during a meeting at the Milnerton library on Thursday November 24. The City announced its intention to restore the landmark earlier this year (“Plans to repair historic wooden bridge,” Tabletalk April 20 2016).

Mike Scurr, an architect and heritage consultant, said much of the decay in the timber was irreparable: the only solution was to dismantle the bridge and rebuild.

Other damage included holes in the bridge’s asphalt surfacing, collapsed sidewalks and damaged splice members.

Mr Scurr said the TCT had considered the “do nothing option”, letting nature take its course, but the bridge’s provincial heritage-site status and the community’s unhappiness about its growing unsightliness had ruled that out.

Also ruled out was ongoing maintenance of the bridge: it’s too far gone for that.

“This approach is no longer practical from a technical perspective, as the problem has developed to be larger than maintenance, repair, piecing in new timbers and a general soft-touch approach can accommodate,” Mr Scurr said.

Retaining a fragment of the bridge as a remnant was also explored but rejected as it was an “unsatisfactory heritage response.”

This had left restoring and conserving the bridge as the only viable option. “This option, as explored by the engineers and technical advisers, essentially dismantles the bridge salvages all reusable timber and rebuilds the bridge,” said Mr Scurr.

“The conservation argument is framed in terms of what is meant, in this instance, by authenticity. While authenticity of material is not achieved overall, authenticity can be shown to be retained in form and design, materials, substance, use and function, traditions, techniques, location and setting, spirit and feeling. A heritage argument can therefore be put forward for this option.

“This approach also allows for considered detail modifications in terms of new technologies and for adapting the bridge to accommodate its 21st century function,” he said.

Over the next two years, the City will fork out just under R30 million on dismantling the bridge, removing splice members installed in 1994 and reassembling the bridge using balau wood along with the salvaged original jarrah.

A resident at the meeting said she did not think the City thought matters through as parking in the area was a problem and could only be made worse once the bridge was restored. But another resident shot back saying tourists were using the MyCiTi services and residents should also, instead of driving around with only one person in a car.

“We can’t expect the City to cater to all our needs. We have to be part of the solution as well,” he said.

Mr Scurr said there was also a legal imperative to save the bridge and to give people access to more public amenities. BLOB Chairman of the Milnerton Central Ratepayers’ Association Peter Walsh said the association was now a member of the Western Seaboard Civic Alliance. Also, eight people had so far joined the new Milnerton Central Neighbourhood Watch, and he urged others to do as well.

BLOB From February, nine law enforcement officers HOW MANY VEHICLES? will be patrolling Century City, Summer Greens, Monatgue Gardens and surrounds, up from the four in two vehicles who currently do so, said Mr Walsh. .