A decision is approaching on whether the aging Bruhn Bridge will be replaced by a single five-lane span or a four-lane bridge with a second smaller bridge nearby.
The results of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s public consultation on the upcoming replacement of the bridge show more respondents in favour of the one-bridge option and safety concerns on both sides of the debate.
The public were asked about the two options still being considered for the replacement of the bridge, which is more than 50 years old, during a community engagement process held from Feb. 1 to 18. The two options still being considered are a five-lane bridge to replace the current one, or a four-lane bridge replacement and an entirely new bridge at Main Street.
A third option, a six-lane bridge replacing the existing span was ruled out in September 2017 after an earlier round of public consultation.
According to the report from the ministry, both options are expected to cost $215 million.
“The ministry has not yet identified a preferred concept for advancement. Selection of a preferred option will consider engineering, environmental and financial information, along with feedback from local government, First Nations, the public, and the Project Liaison Committee, and will occur in spring 2018,” the report reads.
Respondents to the public consultation process were asked to fill out a feedback form asking how strongly they agree with each of the bridge-replacement options and giving them the opportunity to comment on the options. A total of 770 feedback forms were received. A further 186 people attended the open house on Feb. 1 and 30 emailed submissions were received.
On the response forms the public were asked how strongly they agreed with each of the proposed options. When asked about the one-bridge option, 56 per cent of respondents ticked the box stating they strongly agreed or somewhat agreed; 41 per cent of respondents disagreed with the plan. In the portion of the form asking about the two-bridge option, 47 per cent of respondents said they agreed with the two bridge while 52 per cent disagreed.
Respondents had the opportunity to state their case in their own words for why they agreed or disagreed with each of the plans.
Common reasons for agreement with the one-bridge plan included the possibility of it reducing traffic on Main Street and minimizing the impact on Sicamous’ walkability, green space, parking and property values. Sixty-one responses expressed concerns about impacts on Main Street traffic and congestion and a further 60 about walkabilty, property values, green space and parking.
Some respondents are also in favour of the single-bridge option because they believe it will have less environmental, marine and archaeological impacts.
Those opposed to the two-bridge solution also say it will negatively affect channel navigation, the boat launch and other marine traffic.
Twenty-one respondents believe there is an economic case to be made for the one-bridge option; they wrote comments saying the plan was more cost effective including eliminating potential tax implications for residents and ensuring that the cost of maintaining the bridge is borne by the ministry.
Those in favour of each plan for the bridge replacement cited safety concerns with their less preferred option. Responses were received expressing concern about pedestrian and cyclist safety having to share the five-lane bridge with trucks and highway traffic. Twenty-seven respondents said they were in favour of the five-lane bridge because it is safer overall.
Thirty-four responses were opposed to the single-bridge solution because they thought it will slow down the response of emergency vehicles.
The responses show both sides of the debate seem to think their option is best for improving access to the community, improving its prospects in terms of tourism and development.
Along with the official response forms the Ministry also received 30 emailed submissions about the project. The written submissions expressed safety concerns with the current configuration intersection configuration at Old Spallumcheen Road and the Trans-Canada Highway and support for the two-bridge option on the grounds it will be provide better access to the upcoming Sicamous to Armstrong rail trail for pedestrians and cyclists.
A petition titled yes to main street bridge with a total of 35 signatures was also received with the written submissions. The Ministry’s report noted that in September 2017 they received a no to Main Street bridge petition with approximately 600 signatures.