Rendering of new Malakwa Bridge.

Easy to take safer travel through Eagle Valley for granted

OPINION: Safe and seamless travel over new Malakwa bridge a reminder of the good being done to improve driving conditions.

It’s pouring rain as I drive east onto the Malakwa Bridge, about to pass a fellow Highway 1 traveller in a westbound semi.

As our vehicles pass, we simply cruise along, just the two vehicles on the bridge with two empty passing lanes and a concrete divider between us.

No need to fuss with the windshield wipers in a panic to remove a spray of water obscuring my view. No worrying about how close my car is to the solid yellow line on the road. None of the concerns I might have had with the former two-laned, steel-truss structure that used to be the Malakwa Bridge.

As I carry on my merry way, I consider how easy it is to take such an engineering feat for granted.

The new Malakwa Bridge and adjacent highway four-laning, completed this summer, cost around $35 million to build ($13 million of which was paid by the federal government).

Upon completion, the predictable provincial press releases came out, with quotes from politicians referring to infrastructure investments and long-term commitments and the like. But there wasn’t, to my recollection, anything in the way of a grand-reopening ceremony a way of showing thanks to those who made the bridge happen, from the engineers to the heavy machine operators to the flaggers everyone who worked through good and bad weather, moving earth and rerouting busy, hectic summer traffic to get the job done.

I don’t recall anything formal happening when the new Swansea Point bridge along Highway 97A was completed either. I do know residents of the community were very happy when the province, after much lobbying, finally came through with a structure that addressed local concerns around flooding.

While neither structure may be as impressive in scope and size as, say, the Port Mann Bridge, they were needed.

Currently, contractors for the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure are working on the replacement of the NorthFork Bridge, another outdated, two-lane, steel-truss structure in Malakwa. Though the groundwork is in its early stages, the work being done is already impressive, with the river below having been partially diverted to accommodate construction of a new four-lane structure.

I expect one day, when it’s complete, I’ll find myself driving across the North Fork with the same level of comfort I have now when crossing the Malakwa bridge and the same degree of gratitude for those who built it.