A Sicamous resident is concerned the district may get saddled with more than it can afford when it comes to replacing the Bruhn Bridge.
While it’s no secret the current municipal council has been in discussion with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure about replacing the 53-year-old structure, named after local pioneer Rolf Walgren Bruhn, specifics have yet to be formally revealed.
Mayor Terry Rysz, however, says that time is coming soon.
“We are in conversation with MOTI, but the ministry has asked us to keep this in confidence at this stage,” said Rysz. “The one thing they’re trying to align is a public forum somewhere in November so they can announce their intentions in a public gathering.”
According to resident and former Sicamous councillor John Schlosar, however, there is what he calls an “almost substantiated rumour” in the community that the ministry has its sights not just on replacing the Bruhn, to meet the province’s goal of four-laning the Trans-Canada Highway from Kamloops to Alberta, but also rebuilding a bridge at the end of Main Street Landing.
“It appears MOTI tries to dazzle every new council with a proposal similar to this,” Schlosar explained in an email to the News. “In the past, the offer to Sicamous has been a partnership with a cost sharing plan; MOTI, the District of Sicamous and even Hyde Mountain on Mara Lake.
“Apparently, they offer this time a new bridge at no cost to us, except for ongoing maintenance.”
It’s that latter part that’s of particular concern for Schlosar. Having seen proposals for a bridge at Main Street come to council in the past, he says if it is built, Sicamous residents could be facing high long-term maintenance and replacement costs.
“In 1998, annual operating costs were low-balled at $100,000,” said Schlosar. “in today’s dollar you can easily double that. Long-term maintenance and eventual replacement could put this figure over $500,000 annually. Bridges are not cheap.”
Schlosar also suggests the new bridge at Main Street would have to be elevated (over the former bridge) to allow for current boat heights. He suggests the slope of the bridge would have to start somewhere between the traffic circle (which would be eliminated) and Shuswap Avenue. Meanwhile, the Main Street Landing park could be replaced by the Main Street property by the roundabout recently purchased by the district for $500,000.
As for the Bruhn, Schlosar suggests that with the construction of a bridge at Main Street, the province would be free to either rebuild or four-lane it on their own schedule.
“The timing would be up to them for the Bruhn Bridge… but with access to the west side ‘firmed up’ by closing the access from the TCH, because the Main street bridge would be in process, they would be free to deal with land acquisitions, rights of way, etc. If Sicamous says no deal to the offer, they would have a much larger scope of those concerns.”
The Bruhn Bridge and Old Spallumcheen Road are lumped together among projects the ministry had listed in its transportation and investment plan for 2015. A ministry document from May of this year notes the province was in the procurement stage with this project.
“MOTI will absolutely close the TCH/Spallumcheen intersection permanently, if we allow them to build us a bridge, and there will be no way to undo it,” said Schlosar. “All present and future traffic to the west side, including any anticipated construction and development will go down Main Street.”
While pleased to hear a public meeting is in the works, Schlosar argues, if his sources are correct, that the public should have been involved sooner.
“These kinds of major changes in the downtown, plus the additional costs, have to be carefully considered and weighed,” said Schlosar. “The community, after reviewing all the facts and costs, may arrive at the conclusion that it will be good for us long-term. We must then decide just what we are willing to pay for, or, insist that the ownership of the bridge stay with MOTI, and they will be responsible for all future costs. Remember, after all is said and done, we can just say no!
“If the new property purchase is part of the bridge plan, then council has jumped the gun by using our monies to purchase it without proper consultation and process. After borrowing millions on a new water treatment facility and a costly upgrade to the sewage treatment plant, should we be borrowing prematurely to fund something possibly unnecessary, or with questionable value?”