A new report suggests a majority of Sicamous residents disagree with politicians on which Bruhn Bridge replacement option is best for the community and region.
A February 2017 summary on the results of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s public engagement process on the three proposed bridge replacements show what’s being referred to as Option 2 – a new five-lane structure to replace the 52-year-old Bruhn – as having the most public support at 65 per cent.
Option 1, a six-lane bridge, has 32 per cent support. Coming up the middle with 35 per cent support is Option 3, a four-lane bridge along with a new bridge at the west end of Main Street – identified as the preferred option of District of Sicamous council and local First Nations.
These results are based on 314 feedback forms and 24 written submissions provided to the ministry over a two-month period, from Nov. 15, 2016 to Jan. 15, 2017.
Breaking down the numbers, a total of 103 respondents support Option 1, while 165 disagree; 202 people support, and 77 disagree with Option 2; and 97 people support, while 201 disagree with Option 3.
Key themes from 129 additional comments show 22 participants expressed opposition to the Main Street bridge, noting that two bridges are not required. The same number also oppose the District of Sicamous maintaining the bridge due to the potential for increased taxes. Meanwhile, 20 respondents want more direct public involvement in the decision-making process regarding the project, requesting access to more detailed project information.
A May 2016 MOTI document entitled Trans-Canada Highway 1: RW Bruhn Bridge Replacement, originally referred to Option 3 as the “indicated preference of council and First Nations.”
This has now been deleted from page 13 of the original document, under the title: Planning Options Recommended.
This followed meetings between the ministry, District of Sicamous council and First Nations, in which there was an “identified interest in a Main Street Bridge option to support community growth and connectivity.”
While the ministry has not provided construction cost estimates for the options, ministry staff have stated that Option 1 would be the most expensive, while options 2 and 3 would be similar. In addition, no cost information for the proposed Main Street bridge has been made public, for construction or ongoing maintenance, though it has been suggested the District of Sicamous would assume responsibility for the structure if it’s constructed.
Sicamous Mayor Terry Rysz has publicly expressed his support of Option 3, but stressed council has not yet made its decision.
“I believe the Main Street Bridge is totally right for Sicamous because it’s about connectivity, it’s about walkable communities, it’s about biking communities, in comparison to having to go out on the bloody highway to get back into your community. I’m so in favour of that second bridge,” said Rysz in a Dec. 2016 interview.
There is currently a petition being circulated by Sicamous residents who are opposed to Option 3. Among them, Judy Moore says she’s not surprised by the results of the public consultation report.
“I’ve heard a lot of people that are opposed to the Main Street bridge option, so I wasn’t surprised,” said Moore.
The petition, Moore explained, offers residents another avenue to communicate their opposition of Option 3 to council. The importance of this was made more evident for Moore and company during a meeting with Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo. Moore said they were informed during this meeting that “council has the ultimate right to make the decision and if the council says ‘no’…, the government would not pursue it.”
“We explained to him we’re not getting answers, that’s why we had to come to you, to please help us as out MLA to navigate this, and so he spelled it out – if they say ‘no,’ boom, it’s off the table,” said Moore, confirming that residents have more say in the matter than they might know or think. “That is correct; thus the petition.”
Moore said she and the group behind the petition are encouraging residents to attend Tuesday evening’s (Feb. 21) town hall meeting, hosted by Sicamous council, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Eagle River Secondary (after press time).
“The petition will be available tomorrow night,” said Moore. “We have told everybody wanting to take the information away to read it over and to go and consider their thoughts. Again, we’ve encouraged them to come to the meeting and if they don’t like what they hear, then… sign the petition.”
District town manager Evan Parliament said MOTI staff is unable to attend Tuesday’s meeting, but “any questions directed to the province will be recorded and submitted to the province.”