Eighth Street bridge could be replaced by 2013: Report
— Brandonsun.com headline, September 2010
Prior to 2010, there was little talk about the need to take a serious look at the future of the Eighth Street bridge. All focus was on getting the Thompson spans replaced on 18th Street North over the Assiniboine River
But then Coun. Errol Black (Riverview) enquired about the condition of the steep and narrow Eighth Street bridge at the Aug. 16 city council meeting, saying that he had received complaints regarding both it and the First Street bridge (the latter has since been resurfaced, but is still in need of structural rehab.)
Ironically, council was told at the time the Eighth Street bridge — which is really the 8.5 Street bridge, as it’s midway between Eighth and Ninth streets — could be replaced by 2013, depending on the results of a consultation the city expected to start later thar year.
Well, what started later that year was preparation for the historic flood of the spring of 2011, pushing many city projects back — including the Eighth Street bridge. However, once the floodwaters receded, the oddly designed Eighth Street bridge remained. Along with its structural shortfalls, which aren’t getting any safer as the clock ticks.
Its design is decidedly odd, and one wonders what the original engineers were thinking. Starting from the north on Eighth Street, a spur line of sorts was created that starts to build up to where the bridge starts its hump over the CP Rail mainline. The “Eighth Street spur line bridge” ends abruptly at a dangerous ‘T’ intersection at busy Pacific Avenue, with no traffic lights to help pedestrians emerging from the Crystal Hotel or from Westman Immigrant Services.
A solution has to be decided upon — fast — as the province again confirmed that no real work will begin on the bottleneck created by the three-lane Daly Overpass on 18th Street until the new bridge in the city’s centre is built.
Portions of the Eighth Street bridge date back to the 1930s. It is entirely a city project, while 18th Street is provincial. We suggest it’s of greater urgence for the city right now than the North Brandon Gateway project, as the bridge replacement is directly tied in with the province replacing/upgrading the Daly Overpass.
As the province waits for the city to figure out what to do with its mid-town bridge, Premier Greg Selinger said the province is prepared to do some of the “preparatory work to acquire rights of ways and other improvements” on the Daly Overpass to make traffic flow better.
In his recent quarterly update to council, city manager Scott Hildebrand said after the open houses and feedback from city council, Dillon Consulting is in the final stages of preliminary design for a combined vehicular/pedestrian bridge at the existing location.
“This option will eliminate the need for expropriation of any private lands,” Hildebrand said, noting when the preliminary design is completed in early 2013, Dillon will provide an updated cost estimate to council for discussion.
So given the way we know how city council works, it’ll likely be at least a year from now before any final decision is made.
And if the goal is not to expropriate any private lands, we wonder what kind of beastly bridge will be erected at the site, as that likely means maintaining the basic footprint of the existing Eighth Street spur line bridge. All the preliminary designs the Sun saw showed some impact on private property.
Regardless, this project must be put on the front burner in order for the province to move forward with major improvements on the Daly Overpass, Selinger on Tuesday said without a shadow of a doubt that the City of Brandon first needs to address the Eighth Street bridge.
“If you’re going to shut the … Daly Overpass, you need to divert traffic to the Eighth Street bridge,” Selinger said. “There’s a concern that the Eighth Street bridge may not be sufficiently strong at the moment to handle that.”
And last week, MNP and the Brandon Chamber of Commerce presented the findings of the latest Business Climate Survey, which showed an overwhelming desire by those polled that the Daly Overpass on 18th Street become the city’s primary construction concern.
“We still have issues with 18th (Street) going from two to three to four, back to two to three lanes,” chamber president Nate Andrews said. “If we can start to get that sorted out, our main artery, I think it’s going to take our community a long ways.”
Mayor Shari Decter Hirst reiterated the Daly Overpass is a provincial responsibility and Premier Selinger is “very aware of how important it is” for the city. And he is very aware, Your Worship.
But the ball — or bridge — is in your court.