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'Walkway only' makes sense: Blight

A city transit bus crosses over the Eighth Street bridge on Monday afternoon. The future of the bridge is being reviewed through the budgeting process.

BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN Enlarge Image

A city transit bus crosses over the Eighth Street bridge on Monday afternoon. The future of the bridge is being reviewed through the budgeting process.

Instead of forking out millions to replace the Eighth Street bridge for traffic flow, the aging structure will likely become a pedestrian bridge, city officials told the Sun yesterday.

"I think it just makes sense we won’t be continuing with the Eighth Street bridge, at least that’s my interpretation — make it as a walkway only," said Coun. Murray Blight (Victoria).

The city has been considering plans for replacing the bridge for the past five years.

According to the 2009 Inspection Report Update, the structure exhibits areas of "severe deterioration." 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.

Options outlined in a preliminary design report from Dillon Consulting include rehabilitating the bridge, rebuilding the bridge in the same location, angling the bridge so that it lines up with Ninth Street and relocating the bridge so it lined up with Fifth Street.

The options range from $20 million to $34 million.

"They’re expensive," Blight said.

"I respect residents in the north end and being able to accommodate getting to and fro. The only availability as I see it will be walking, biking … but you just won’t be able to utilize, eventually, vehicles."

Blight said the fact that plans are in the works to expand the Daly Overpass to four lanes will allow for good traffic flow on 18th Street, and that, combined with First Street, cover the city’s two major arteries.

Mayor Shari Decter Hirst said another option still being considered is having a weight restriction for the Eighth Street bridge.

Decter Hirst said the main priority is to get First Street and 18th Street bridges functioning at maximum capacity, with the Eighth Street bridge being looked at as a secondary bridge.

"It was felt that the investment would be better made with a higher rate of return on the 18th Street bridge," she said.

Over the weekend, council approved its tentative 2014 budget, which included a $500,000 increase to core infrastructure projects such as roads, sidewalks and drainage bringing the city’s annual commitment to $1.5 million.

Last November, the province announced in the throne speech that the Daly Overpass will be redeveloped in partnership with the city.

The bridge is just one of the projects that the government highlighted as part of a five-year, $5.5-billion plan focused on core infrastructure like roads and sewers.

The three-lane bridge over the railway tracks along 18th Street, which has been much-maligned as the largest bottleneck in the city will be expanded to four lanes.

But how that will be accomplished and a specific timeline are still up in the air.

Decter Hirst said she is not anticipating construction on the project this year.

"A lot of planning has to be done as well as potential property acquisition and all that kind of stuff," Decter Hirst said. "We are working very closely with the province."

As 18th Street is one of the main arteries in Brandon, it will be a fairly complicated project to tackle, the mayor added.

"Will we close the bridge totally and get it done fast and route everybody over Eighth Street and First Street?" Decter Hirst said. "Or will we keep one lane open, like they did with the Thompson Bridge and just do it slow but try and at least keep a trickle of traffic going?"

These decisions still need to be made, and Decter Hirst said provincial and city engineers will be building the plan together.

"That report will come to council — but again, lots of advance work first," she said.

A provincial spokesperson said no further details are available regarding timeline or plans for the project, which is being undertaken to "ease congestion and improve safety on 18th Street."

More details are expected in the coming weeks and months.

» jaustin@brandonsun.com

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 14, 2014

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Instead of forking out millions to replace the Eighth Street bridge for traffic flow, the aging structure will likely become a pedestrian bridge, city officials told the Sun yesterday.

"I think it just makes sense we won’t be continuing with the Eighth Street bridge, at least that’s my interpretation — make it as a walkway only," said Coun. Murray Blight (Victoria).

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Instead of forking out millions to replace the Eighth Street bridge for traffic flow, the aging structure will likely become a pedestrian bridge, city officials told the Sun yesterday.

"I think it just makes sense we won’t be continuing with the Eighth Street bridge, at least that’s my interpretation — make it as a walkway only," said Coun. Murray Blight (Victoria).

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