Previously unannounced structural issues with the First Street bridge will force the province to begin major repairs by next year.
Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger dropped the surprising news on Thursday, when he arrived at Brandon Municipal Airport to discuss an $80-million announcement for upgrades to several Brandon and area highways and bridges.
"It’s important to do it now from a straight engineering point of view," Selinger said, adding that the First Street bridge project must now become "an important priority."
An engineering analysis on the First Street bridge was completed recently, and the information was given to the province as they rolled out the budget this spring, Selinger said.
It has been determined that the bridge deck needs to be replaced and girders need to be reinforced.
"When the engineers tell us a project should be a priority, we listen," Selinger said.
The premier said they believe they can rehabilitate it while keeping one lane open. Pre-construction and design work is slated for this year, with construction to begin next year.
The province announced a total of eight infrastructure projects in Brandon and the surrounding area to be taken on by Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation in the next five years.
The Daly Overpass will undergo "major rehabilitation" and expansion to add a fourth lane. But with the news about the First Street bridge, it’s looking like the Daly Overpass will be pushed back.
"Daly Overpass will come after the First Street bridge is done," Selinger said.
Mayor Shari Decter Hirst was at the airport when Selinger made the First Street bridge announcement, and was surprised by the new information.
"The news about the condition of the First Street bridge is concerning. Obviously if it’s an engineering issue, we’ve got to deal with it first," she said. "The Daly bridge is congested but is structurally sound and so we’ll have to be patient because obviously broken bridges need to be fixed first."
Brandon East NDP MLA Drew Caldwell said he did not know "the serious nature" of the bridge until Thursday.
Other infrastructure projects include paving the Brandon Municipal Airport access road and 15 kilometres of Highway 270 from the Trans-Canada Highway to PR 25.
The Trans-Canada Highway will be microsurfaced in the eastbound lanes from the east junction of Highway 10 for five kilometres. The province will also be microsurfacing 6.2 kilometres from Highway 270 to the west junction of Highway 10.
Veterans Way will also be microsurfaced for 3.9 kilometres including grade widening.
Repaving work will also happen on PTH 1A from the west junction of the Trans-Canada Highway for 8.6 kilometres to 50th Street.
Victoria Avenue between 18th Street and First Street will be graded and repaved.
The $80-million announcement is part of the province’s $5.5-billion, five-year core infrastructure plan.
Selinger was also asked about Brandon Municipal Airport renewal and whether the province will be stepping up to help in the major project.
"We believe the airport upgrade, which I know the mayor has identified as one of her priorities, is one of the projects we could fund together under the (New) Building Canada Fund," Selinger said. "We’re very positive about that project. If (Brandon-Souris Conservative MP) Larry Maguire and the federal government wants to do it, we’ll partner with them on it and get it done."
Brandon is a growing city, and Selinger said upgrading the airport makes sense.
"It’ll bring more business to this part of the world," he said. "I think it will be good for the region."
Decter Hirst said she was "absolutely delighted" that the province will be standing with the city as they make their application to the federal fund.
"It’s important to have strong partners and enthusiastic partners, and it sounds like we have that in the province right now," she said.