“Oh heck, just knock it down already. Use the money to build a bridge at around 26th Street or 34th Street instead.”
This was the final choice of the poll on the Brandon Sun website on Thursday on the future of the Eighth Street bridge, and perhaps shows the best option available for us in the ongoing debate about the Eighth Street and 18th Street train overpasses and the general topic of traffic control and city planning currently happening in the city.
As the Sun reported on Wednesday, Premier Selinger was in town this week and one of the things he said was that the city needs to replace the Eighth Street bridge before anything can be done about the traffic bottleneck that is currently seen on the Daly Overpass at 18th, so that the province can use Eighth Street as a detour for 18th during construction.
So, let me get this straight. The province wants the city to build a bridge, so that they, the province, can detour a major provincial highway over that bridge and through a residential neighbourhood while they close their own bridge to expand it.
This, by the way, seems to be the only solution that the province sees in their dilemma of solving the bottleneck problem on the Daly Overpass.
Why is it that the city and the province cannot actually see the root of the problem here? The problem is not that the Daly Overpass cannot handle the amount of traffic that should be going over it; the problem is that the Daly Overpass has more traffic than should be going over it.
What is the difference you may ask?
Well, let’s look at the available north-south crossings that there are for traffic in and around the city of Brandon. Starting in the east, you have the Eastern Bypass route, Highway 110. Next, you have First Street crossing the tracks and the river, Eighth Street crossing just the tracks, and 18th Street crossing the tracks and the river. After that you have ... oh yeah, you have nothing, unless you drive around by Kemnay.
And that is the problem. Every car west of probably 13th Street that wants to get to the north side of the city needs to use 18th Street to get there. West of 18th, there are no viable crossings. Sure, 26th Street will get you across the tracks, but with a level crossing people opt not to use it, or when they do, they have to travel down McDonald Avenue through another residential neighbourhood.
The problem is this. You do not have a bottleneck on the Daly Overpass because it is to small to handle what should be its traffic, you have a bottleneck because traffic is on it that shouldn’t be there in the first place.
So what are the solutions being bandied about by the province and the city? Build two new bridges in exactly the same places we have them now instead of looking at the big picture.
First Street and 18th Street are one mile apart. We do not need three bridges in this short span. I suspect that if you eliminated the Eighth Street bridge the neighbourhood it supposedly serves to the north would be better off as it would no longer be cut in half by an expressway from downtown to the Corral Centre. A smaller pedestrian corridor could be built in its place so as to not inconvenience those who would walk downtown and to connect to the pedestrian bridge over the river.
You take money that you would spend on an Eighth Street bridge, and you eliminate the level crossing at 26th by going over the tracks and perhaps McDonald Avenue, connecting it to Hilton Avenue west of Andrews Field. You could alternatively route 34th over the tracks and the river, despite members of the city management saying that it is not possible, there is a route there that would end on Grand Valley Road about a half-mile from the Corral Centre. This gives you a new route from the heavily populated west side of the city, eliminating traffic that should not be on the Daly Overpass in the first place and gets traffic off McDonald.
Now, since the province does not have to widen the Daly Overpass, you get them to start readying to build a Western Access route that connects Highway 110 south to Victoria Avenue at 50th Street and then eliminate the train bridge at Kemnay, a bridge that has again been hit just this week. This would complete a “ring road” similar to Regina, Winnipeg or Saskatoon, taking the traffic off city routes that does not need to be there.
Building new versions of what we already have does not seem to be the answer. Building a new bridge to replace an old bridge that is perhaps not needed seems silly and expanding or twinning an existing bridge when the problem actually lies elsewhere seems ludicrous.
Just because we’ve always done things this way, doesn’t mean we should continue to into the future.
Before you try to solve the problem, understand the cause of it and what could be a further problem in the future. What is missing here is foresight.