Updated 10:25 a.m., Feb. 27
Sicamous residents received some answers regarding the proposed Bruhn Bridge replacement options, but are still far from consensus.
Though relatively new to the community, District of Sicamous town manager Evan Parliament had the duty of hosting and answering the majority of the questions posed by an audience of roughly 265 people at a town hall meeting in the Eagle River Secondary gymnasium Tuesday night, Feb. 21.
Up for discussion were the three bridge replacement options proposed by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure: Option 1, a six-lane bridge; Option 2, a five-lane bridge; and Option 3, a new four-lane bridge, as well as a new bridge at the west end of Main Street crossing the channel to Old Spallumcheen Road (OSR).
Parliament first introduced Mayor Terry Rysz, who noted all of council was in attendance. Rysz stressed the project is the province’s responsibility, as is the final decision on what will be constructed.
“What we can do is share our input, flag considerations that are important to Sicamous and work to influence the final decision,” said Rysz. “At the end of the day, the province will choose which option to pursue.”
Parliament proceeded to provide some background information. First, he said the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI), though not present at the meeting, has stated the project is only in its preliminary/conceptual stage, with the final design being years away, and construction tentatively scheduled for spring/summer of 2019 or 2020. This, Parliament explained, limits what questions the district and ministry can answer at this time.
The first public comment was made by Deb Heap, who expressed support for Option 3, but wanted to know about any maintenance costs the district might be saddled with in relation to the Main Street bridge.
Parliament explained there are two costs of concern associated with the bridge, the cost of rehabilitation, done every 30 years, and annual maintenance costs. He said rehabilitation would run around $1.4 million. Maintenance costs would be around $34,000 a year. He later estimated this would equal about a one per cent tax increase.
Responding to a related comment, that Sicamous should not be obligated to pay any of these costs, Parliament stressed that if MOTI should choose to go with Option 3, it is his and council’s desire to see the Main Street bridge designated an “arterial road,” meaning it would fall under the province’s jurisdiction. If council were opposed to Option 3, he continued, and fought it – forcing the ministry to expropriate the land needed to build the Main Street bridge – it would be designated an arterial road.
Resident and business owner Pete Schrama said he sees some advantages to Option 3, but didn’t try to push one over another. Instead, he encouraged residents to keep an open mind and do their own research. Reflecting on his own dealings with the provincial government, Schrama said “they’ve got a good idea of what they want to do, and most of the time they do it.”
“I think we have a good council, we have a good staff, so if we tell them what we want, I think they’ll fight for us and at the end of the day, we might not get what we want, but I think we’re going to get the best deal that we could ever have got,” said Schrama.
Main Street business owners Ron Daniel and Richard Chmilar and resident Marilyn Brown each expressed concerns regarding increased traffic volume that might result from the new Main Street bridge.
Asked why council provided its initial support for Option 3, Parliament explained a bridge replacement project liaison committee, including representation from District of Sicamous staff, MOTI, Splatsin, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District staff and other agencies, was established in 2014. They had three meetings between Oct. 14, 2014 and March 2015.
Taking over from Parliament, Coun. Malcolm Makayev explained Option 2 comes with a 370-metre road off the highway to OSR, and that it is unlikely the province will maintain it as arterial. He also said there were safety concerns for pedestrians and cyclists, explaining the speed limit for Options 1/2 would be between 50- and 70-kilometres an hour, while a 30km/h speed limit would be posted for the Main Street bridge.
Speaking to concerns of residents of Portside Court, which is next to Main Street Landing, where the new bridge would go, Parliament said council would meet with Portside’s strata council and other strata councils along Riverside Avenue.
“I think we should have this discussion with them and their councils and receive some input and feedback as we approach the final design,” said Parliament.
Sicamous resident/business owner John Schlosar said he’d received different information from MOTI on who would be financially responsible for a Main Street bridge, and said the ministry, as well as Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo, had explained that if the community opposes Option 3, MOTI would pursue one of the other two options. Schlosar appealed to council, and the community, to take more time to consider each of the options and their implications.
Last to take the mic was Splatsin band council member George Dennis. He said his council is also pondering the three options, and has yet to come to a decision. Dennis too encouraged residents to keep an open mind and to make an educated decision.
Parliament and Rysz said there would be more town hall meetings on the Bruhn Bridge replacement project before a final decision is made.