Brockville Ontario - Downtown drivers will have to wait until the end of February before Brockville's railway tunnel overpass is reopened to traffic.
But, while the Water Street road will remain closed longer than initially expected, the restoration of the historic railway tunnel is on track for a grand opening coinciding with Canada's 150th birthday bash, the project's main proponent, councillor David LeSueur, said Friday.
"Everything seems to be on schedule and to be running smoothly," said LeSueur, who is also chairman of the Brockville Railway Tunnel Committee.
Restoration of the railway tunnel, deemed Canada's oldest, is among Brockville's more prominent infrastructure projects for 2017.
Work is now underway for the project's first phase, which aims to rehabilitate and restore the tunnel and its north portal gorge.
The committee hired Whitby-based Phoenix Restoration to do the masonry work, and the contractor had the Water Street overpass closed off in late summer as a security measure, said LeSueur.
The firm's initial prediction the work would be done and the overpass reopened in two months did not materialize, added the councillor.
"They're due to be finished by the end of February," said LeSueur, adding "they've been working on other parts of the tunnel instead of doing that part (under the overpass)."
The work is part of an expanded plan for the restoration project's first phase.
In November, city council gave the tunnel committee permission to increase the cost of the first phase from $2,500,000 to $3,974,496, in order to add an elaborate lighting system.
The city has so far committed $300,000 toward the tunnel project.
The committee hired the firm Philips to do the lighting work, with help from local company Ford Electric.
LeSueur said Friday the committee has raised $3 million toward that first-phase budget and is confident it will raise the remainder on time.
"It's going well," said LeSueur, adding that first phase might also include the purchase of the "Rotary Train," a rubber-wheeled vehicle that will ferry tourists between the north and south ends of the tunnel.
The first phase will secure the tunnel structurally, put in the lighting and security cameras, and lay down a paved walkway.
LeSueur is confident that first phase will be completed on time for Brockville's planned Rails to Trails festival from 10 to 13 Aug 2017, which aims to incorporate both Canada's 150th anniversary and the official opening of the revamped historic railway tunnel.
The encouraging news comes as LeSueur's city council colleagues await an update, in the near future, on the current status of fund raising and future plans.
In early December, members of the economic development and planning committee stopped short of endorsing the hiring of MTBA Associates Inc. to come up with concepts for the second phase of the project, the development of the former railway lands northeast of William and Brock streets at the tunnel's north end, which the city now owns.
Councillor Mike Kalivas on Friday praised the work of the mostly-citizen-based rail tunnel committee, but said elected officials need to get their heads around the first phase before jumping ahead to subsequent phases.
"We don't really have a real full budget from the committee," said Kalivas.