A work crew inspects the underside of the Bruhn Bridge in late 2015.

A work crew inspects the underside of the Bruhn Bridge in late 2015.

Public should have final say in bridge decision

Resident concerned community will be shouldered with maintenance costs of second bridge.

John Schlosar is pleased to see options for the Bruhn Bridge’s replacement finally come to light.

However, the Sicamous resident says the public needs a lot more information and involvement in the process of choosing which will work best for the community.

Last October, Schlosar raised a flag regarding rumours of in-camera discussions about the bridge’s replacement. In particular, he said the Ministry of Transportation had its sight on replacing not only the Bruhn Bridge, but also the former structure that existed at the end of Main Street.

“It appears MOTI tries to dazzle every new council with a proposal similar to this,” Schlosar, a former Sicamous councillor, explained at that time.  “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…

“In 1998, annual operating costs were low-balled at $100,000. 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.”

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has just released a document showing three options being considered for the replacement of the Bruhn Bridge, with the preferred option (of the province, council and local First Nations) consisting of two bridges, a four-lane replacement of the Bruhn and a second bridge at west end of Main Street.

“The press release indicates right from the start that local council has identified interest in the Main Street bridge option,” responded Schlosar. “With all due respect, who are council to speak for the whole community?  They have a record of making up their minds before public consultation, and with implications to the community on such a grand scale, they are prematurely acting without consultation…

“Remember, Sicamous municipality on the west side is only a small part of the total land.  Everyone who is a partner to this change needs to be at the table and discuss all implications before our council speaks to MOTI about our as yet unknown preference.”

Regarding expenses, the document only states the province is working towards a cost-sharing agreement with the federal government, and that project schedules will depend on funding.

“It is good to see three options presented from the ministry,” said Schlosar. “Aside from engineering differences and cost concerns, they most likely recognize that the community may not be entirely thrilled with the idea of taking on the long-term financial burden of a bridge to maintain.  They do identify advantages and disadvantages of each proposal, but it is important to bear in mind that these are ministry perspectives, not necessarily advantages and disadvantages to Sicamous.”

Sicamous Mayor Terry Rysz was unable to comment on the document before press time.

The MOTI document provides only slide-show format overview and Schlosar says the community needs to see a more comprehensive list of all three proposals, detailing the “long-term effects of, changing Main Street into the only access to the west side, the obvious change to the nature and quality of our downtown core; plus, the ongoing costs associated with a questionable major capital structure in our town centre.”

“If the community is fully engaged and have a comprehensive perspective on the implications for the long-term,  then the final decision will be a good thing,” said Schlosar.

A public open house for the proposed bridge options is anticipated to take place this fall.