The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has made the decision on how it will replace the aging RW Bruhn Bridge in Sicamous. The decision has frustrated Sicamous elected officials and other community members.
For months the ministry has been weighing replacing the bridge with either a new five-lane span over the Sicamous Channel or a four-lane bridge with another smaller bridge over the channel at Sicamous’ Main Street. The ministry announced on Dec. 12 it will be proceeding with the single-bridge option. The future of the bridge was a major topic of discussion at Sicamous council’s Dec. 12 meeting
“Me personally as a councillor, I don’t agree with their decision and also I don’t agree with the process they came up with to make their decision,” said Coun. Malcolm Makayev whose responsibilities as a councillor include transportation matters.
Sicamous council had been vocally in favour of the two-bridge option, agreeing to support it with a number of conditions in July and then unanimously reaffirming their decision in November after the election of two new councillors.
A survey conducted by the ministry, which concluded in early 2017, showed 65 per cent of respondents are in favour of the single-bridge option while 35 per cent favoured the two-bridge option.
At the Dec. 12 meeting, Makayev said a survey of business owners in Sicamous conducted by the district received 35 responses, of which 85 per cent were in favour of the Main Street Bridge option.
“A new five-lane structure will eventually replace the RW Bruhn Bridge in Sicamous and the approaches will be widened to four lanes, improving safety and efficiency for people travelling through the area on Highway 1,” a release from the ministry reads.
Coun. Jeff Mallmes said a better solution for pedestrians than the one on the current bridge is required on the new one for the sake of safety. He cited a recent incident on the bridge where a semi truck smashed into and severely damaged the bridge railing as a potentially dangerous situation for pedestrians walking on the sidewalk. It is not separated from traffic by a railing or barricade.
“The semis are doing 70 picking up speed to get up that hill,” added Coun. Colleen Anderson.
According to the ministry, along with a replacement bridge, construction in the area will create a new roadway passing under the bridge on the west side of the channel, acceleration and deceleration lanes at Old Spallumcheen Road and a multi-use path to increase safety for pedestrians and cyclists. The project will also include intersection improvements between Old Sicamous Road and Silver Sands Road.
“The results of archaeological field work and the cultural significance of the project area have guided the ministry’s decision to advance the one-bridge design, given the need to minimize impacts,” the release reads.
It says that financial, technical and environmental concerns were considered in making the decision, as were the results of consultation with local governments, First Nations and the public.
The $224.5 million project is cost-shared between the federal and provincial governments, with up to $91 million coming from the federal end through the New Building Canada Fund.
The ministry anticipates design of the project will take two years, with construction beginning in 2020.
“From my perspective, it’s disappointing,” said Mayor Terry Rysz
“We’re probably going to fight it to a certain extent.”
He said council members are still reeling from the news and working out how they can make the most of the ministry’s decision.
Rysz said the Main Street Bridge option, which became council’s favourite, was actually initially proposed by the ministry. He said ministry representatives first raised the possibility of a second bridge across the channel with him and council four years ago and he heard it had been suggested as a possibility to previous councils in the past.
He said having safe pedestrian and cyclist access to the west side of the channel is essential to Sicamous’ involvement in the rail trail project. He suggested the possibility of a pedestrian bridge across the channel at Main Street even if one for cars is no longer a possibility.