Construction of a new Eighth Street bridge could begin in 2014, according to Brandon’s deputy director of engineering services and water resources.
Patrick Pulak said the preliminary design report from Dillon Consulting is expected to be received mid-March.
"My hope is this is the year that we … finalize where we want to go," Pulak said. "So this year becomes the year for the design."
After preliminary design, a request for proposals will be issued for detailed design plans.
"And if we’re going forward, I see construction possibly as early as next year," Pulak said.
The preliminary design report will outline the timeline for construction and the cost for the project.
Plans for replacing the aging Eighth Street bridge have been in the works since about 2010. Originally, 2013 was the target date for completion, but the project was pushed back as the city dealt with the historic flood of 2011.
The bridge is a combination of the original structure that was built in 1934 and a newer portion constructed in 1968.
According to the 2009 Inspection Report Update, the structure exhibits areas of "severe deterioration."
"It’s at the end of its lifespan," Pulak said. "You’ve got a few portions that will maybe last a bit longer but … it’s gone beyond where you traditionally expect bridges to last."
The bridge is not yet a safety concern and the city is not at the point where it needs to start implementing load restrictions.
"At this point we’re not there yet, but if we delay this decision we will be," said Mayor Shari Decter Hirst. "And then … what’s the point of having a bridge?"
Decter Hirst said replacing the Eighth Street bridge is a top priority.
"It’s very much on the front burner of our infrastructure projects that we’re looking at," she said.
Several bridge options were considered, including building a new structure at Fifth Street and changing the shape of the bridge at its existing location. Both were met with negative feedback from the public.
"All of the options we presented involved some level of expropriation of land," Pulak said. "The feedback we got from the public, especially from the residents in the area, was a ‘not in my back yard’ type of attitude, and not surprisingly so."
Pulak said the option to build at Fifth Street was one of the most expensive routes. They went back to the drawing board and developed another option, which requires no land expropriation. The plan is to rebuild the Eighth Street bridge where it is for vehicles only, with a separate pedestrian bridge on the east side to line up with the transit mall.
"One of the problems we have with the current bridge is it really doesn’t meet today’s transportation standards," Pulak said. "(This option) allows us, within the space that we have, to meet those standards. Plus whenever you can separate pedestrian/vehicular traffic, it’s always a bonus."
Pulak said they also looked at ways to address the bridge’s steep south side, such as re-grading Pacific Avenue.
"But the problem is, what really dictates that is the clearance that we have to have over the railroad," he said. "We looked at several options … and it doesn’t matter what we did, it would be an enormous amount of money to try and fix that grade."
Most of the concerns regarding the bridge’s southern approach come in the winter.
"There’s a lot of salt that has to be added to the road so it’s not icy in that intersection," he said, adding that the city is looking into an underground heating system to prevent ice buildup.
While the cost is not yet known, Pulak said the bridge replacement would likely be in the range of $25 million.
The city has an infrastructure reserve, but Pulak said they would need to pursue a funding partnership with either the province or the federal government.
"Then depending on where council’s comfort level is with funding the project, we may add money to the reserve, we may issue a debenture," Pulak said.