Representatives from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure clarified some of the finer points of their plans for the replacement of the RW Bruhn bridge.
Speaking to the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) board of directors at their March 18 meeting, ministry staff provided reasons for selecting a single, four-lane bridge rather than the five lane span selected at the end of public consultation in 2018 to replace the current Highway 1 structure in Sicamous, and also elaborated on some of the project’s fine details.
The presentation was led by Jennifer Stites, the ministry’s project manager working on the replacement of the bridge. Stites described the ways the project has changed since the original design was selected following the consultation. Along with designing the project around a four-lane bridge, access to Old Spallumcheen Road will now be routed through an underpass west of the existing intersection.
Stites told the board that moving the access to its planned location and setting it up in a way that will no longer require vehicles to turn left across traffic will make access to Old Spallumcheen safer. She said the four-lane bridge was also selected because its construction will disturb the ground less in an area which is historically and culturally significant to local First Nations, and because the existing bridge will be able to stay open as the new one is built.
Also covered in Stites’ presentation is the multi-use pathway which will run from Gill Avenue to Old Spallumcheen Road via a three-metre wide walkway along the bridge’s eastbound lane. The path will be separated from highway traffic by a concrete barrier and a wide paved shoulder. Stites said questions had been raised about why the barrier would not be taller. She said the barrier’s height and lack of railing are considered optimal because it makes it possible for cyclists riding down the shoulder of the road to escape onto the path if they have to avoid a collision. She said taller barriers or railings are used in situations where cyclists are not able to ride on the shoulder.
Stites showed an early draft of the ministry’s plan to link the path over the bridge with the Sicamous to Armstrong Rail Trail that is currently under construction. The early plans, which Stites said are contingent on an archaeological assessment of the area south of the new bridge, will incorporate part of the existing Old Spallumcheen Road into a multi-use pathway. The proposed path would join the rail trail after descending the hill with a series of switchbacks. Stites said the path would have approximately an eight per cent grade, making the descent manageable for users.
Following the presentation, CSRD Electoral Area E director Rhona Martin said the construction of a new bridge was a rare opportunity to make an aesthetically pleasing gateway to the area and asked what was being done to enhance the look of the structure. Stites said aesthetic concerns were one of the things being discussed with Splatsin and the incorporation of indigenous culture and artwork is being considered.
Sicamous Mayor Terry Rysz repeated his previous advocacy for the creation of a new access point to Sicamous downtown area at Silver Sands Road. He said he recognizes the project is complicated and is glad it is proceeding. Stites replied that the Silver Sands expansion is on their radar but the ministry would need to receive a formal application for the new highway access before they can proceed with designing it.
The project is not expected to be complete until 2025.