The Daly Overpass was officially opened on Oct. 16, 1963. Its three lanes are now a source of frustration for Brandon drivers on four-lane 18th Street.
The Daly Overpass marked its 50th anniversary this week, but instead of celebrating, many motorists were likely grumbling in their cars as they dealt with ongoing traffic snarls.
Headlines from the Brandon Sun regarding the opening of the Daly Overpass. (THE BRANDON SUN)
In this June 2009 photo, traffic makes its way over the Daly Overpass on 18th Street. (FILE PHOTO)
Mayor Shari Decter Hirst compared the situation on 18th Street to a heart attack.
"It’s four lane from one end of the city to the other except through this constriction, this narrowing on the bridge," she said. "It causes heart attacks when blood doesn’t flow and arteries narrow, and that’s the kind of analogy to what’s happening in the city."
Decter Hirst said the bottleneck situation, going from two northbound lanes to one, is impacting commerce, efficient movement of people and emergency services.
"It backs up past the university, past the Victoria and 18th Street intersections," she said, referring to the "Christmas rush."
"Not only is it frustrating, it’s dangerous trying to move emergency personnel."
As the bridge is a provincial responsibility, Decter Hirst said she would like to see the government make Daly Overpass expansion a higher priority.
"It’s intolerable not to have four lanes on the bridge," Decter Hirst said.
The province has no set timeline for expanding the bridge. According to a provincial spokesperson, it is in the "longer-range plans."
"The province has undertaken some preliminary design work on this and has funding in the multi-year capital program to start the land acquisition process," the spokesperson said via email.
On Oct. 16, 1963, a crowd of some 300 people gathered to witness the official opening of the new $775,000 Daly Overpass. They watched Mayor S.A. Magnacca clip the ribbon across the three-lane structure. The bridge is named after Brandon’s first mayor, Thomas Mayne Daly. Six homes located along the right-of-way route of the bridge had to be removed.
The Daly Overpass is considered the primary traffic corridor in Brandon, and Decter Hirst said it’s the most important access point in the city.
"It’s a huge priority for the city to have that bridge expanded to four lanes," she said. "We mention it consistently when we talk to the province."
About three years ago during former premier Gary Doer’s State of the Province address to the Brandon Chamber of Commerce, Doer said his government would "considerably" and "dramatically" advance refurbishment of the Daly Overpass.
At that time the bridge was not slated for upgrades until 2026, something Doer said simply did not make sense.
"Then we had the flood, and it sort of became less of a priority," Decter Hirst said. "As we are now catching up with the flood repair obligations … (the Daly Overpass) is a linchpin for economic development in our region. It is a significant issue, in terms of living in the city and just being able to efficiently go from one end of the city to the other."
Decter Hirst points out that the situation will likely only get worse as Brandon continues to grow.
"We’re planning a significant subdivision for the North Hill … we have a thriving commercial corridor on First Street North, we have the airport now and all of those folks moving in and out of the city," she said.
Brandon Police Service Sgt. Kevin Loewen said there are times when emergency vehicles are adversely affected by the traffic congestion.
"The traffic flow on 18th Street, the bottlenecking it creates at certain times of the day could very often cause us to choose a different route to get from Point A to Point B," he said.
Loewen said officers take environmental and physical barriers into consideration before they decide on a route to an emergency.
"Officers will take into consideration the fact that there could be potential traffic flow issues on the 18th Street bridge, and perhaps choose First or Eighth Street as alternative routes as a result of that bottlenecking."
In the Brandon Chamber of Commerce business climate survey released at the beginning of the year, business leaders overwhelmingly responded with infrastructure when asked what the city’s next construction priority should be.
Chamber vice-president Todd Birkhan said 18th Street, across the Daly Overpass is the "lifeline" for businesses in the Corral Centre.
"That’s how people get there. There are certain times of the day when people would avoid that route or ultimately just choose not to go that way," he said.
Birkhan said people living outside of Brandon may choose to go to a different centre for shopping to avoid the traffic issues.
"People driving by, they may not come into Brandon because they know it’s a difficult route to get over," he said.
Birkhan said he would like to see the province put this "vital route" higher up on the priority list.
"We believe it’s very important to tackle those projects that have strong economic impacts — larger arteries, larger routes," he said.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 19, 2013