Bruhn Bridge doesn’t inspire confidence

Province has no immediate plan to replace aging infrastructure.

Sicamous residents have expressed a desire to see the 55-year-old Bruhn Bridge replaced.

Sicamous residents have expressed a desire to see the 55-year-old Bruhn Bridge replaced.

Despite how it looks, the province says there’s still quite a bit of life left to Sicamous’ 55-year-old Bruhn Bridge.

This was the word received from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, in response to questions raised by resident Bea Herzog, who is concerned with the structural integrity of the aging infrastructure.

“I was down there one day, sitting there by the loading (zone), and there was a truck, one of the lowboys with some oil-sealed pumpjacks on it, a real heavy load, and it hit one of those little holes that was up in the deck, and it thumped so hard my vehicle jumped from the concussion,” said Herzog. “Somewhere along the line it’s getting pretty wobbly. And people say, when they walk across it, it vibrates and sways.”

This incident prompted Herzog to take a closer look at the bridge and its supports, which did not inspire confidence.

“When you look at it, you can see rebar all over the place – to me that must be lessening the strength of what’s there,” guessed Herzog. The current state of the bridge’s pillars is a result of work done by the ministry in 2011. Following an incident where a three-foot long by three-inch thick piece of concrete broke off the outside deck and  fell into a boat travelling below, the ministry went over the bridge with a chipping hammer, taking off anything that showed the slightest crack. Afterwards the exposed rebar was coated with a zinc paint to prevent rusting.

MOTI spokesperson Cindy Cousins says the bridge is still in good shape, with many years of service remaining.

“As with all of our structures, it is inspected annually by our technical staff and no serious issues have been identified,” says Cousins in an email. “The most recent inspection was in Summer 2012, and included a detailed inspection using a specialized lift called a ‘snooper truck’ that allows inspectors to access all parts of the bridge.  A similar inspection is planned for this coming summer.”

Replacement of the Bruhn Bridge was identified as a public priority back in February, when MOTI was conducting open houses in the Shuswap to gather input for the province’s $650 million budget to four lane sections of the Trans-Canada Highway from Kamloops to the Alberta border. While the Malakwa and North Fork bridges east of Sicamous were targeted in the ministry’s plans for replacement, the Bruhn was not.

Cousins says that while there are known challenges related to the Bruhn Bridge, such as the Old Spallumcheen Road intersection, there is no immediate plan for its replacement.

Herzog, however, would like to see the bridge replaced sooner than later.

Kim Hyde is of like mind. Her father-in-law helped build the bridge, and says that the concrete used in the bridge was of poor quality.

“When the guys were working on that, they knew the cement wasn’t to par,” says Hyde, who has long advocated for something to be done about the bridge.

Recently, the bridge was reduced to single-lane traffic while MOTI’s maintenance contractor conducted repair work of surface cracks and irregularities. This work, says Cousins, helps to increase the lifespan of the bridge “and does not impact the integrity of the structure.” Herzog, however, has questions there too.

“I was talking to… one of the flag people, and I asked her what they’re doing and she said, ‘Oh, they’re just filling the holes with cement like they always do.’ Well, that’s just adding more weight to the deck and the whole bridge as far as that goes,” said Herzog.

Regarding the shaking sometimes felt by motorists on the bridge, local historian Gordon Mackie suggests this has to do with how the structure’s east end is built on friction piling due to the sandy/silty foundation.