Originally built in the 1920’s, the Sicamous-Solsqua bridge is an important connection for traffic in the community. Being the only bridge within town limits that connects one side of the Eagle River with the other, it is part of many people’s daily commute. Coming close to its 100th anniversary, however, the bridge has seen better days and is reported to be nearing the end of its lifespan.
Fittingly, then, is the announcement which came March 9 that the town of Sicamous will be the recipient of $4.5 million in grant money to go towards replacement of the bridge. This funding will be provided by the Federal Gas Tax Fund, which takes money from taxes on gasoline and redistributes it to provinces, it is then granted to municipalities to support infrastructure projects like this.
Sicamous mayor Terry Rysz says, “this is an important connection within our community, and what would we be doing without it?”
Indeed, a significant portion of the local population lives in an area that requires use of the bridge to cross the river into Sicamous and access the Trans-Canada Highway.
A sizeable residential and commercial development is in progress and this bridge is the only access point from within town. This means the bridge will only be seeing more and more traffic in the future and much of this traffic could be commercial vehicles.
“The north side (of Sicamous) is going to be building up, some of the concerns are about agriculture equipment that travels along this way, we have a plant over there that builds all kinds of different components as well, so it’s a commercial driver. And there are a lot of people that are on the north side of the river, about 30 per-cent of our population,” Rysz says.
For a small town like Sicamous, this type of up-front federal grant funding comes as a welcome bit of recognition for the area, it also shows the federal and provincial governments recognize that funding large infrastructure projects such as this are extremely difficult for towns without a significant tax base.
“Well I mean this is absolutely crucial to the community, we have about 3,000 people in this community and to have this kind of assistance from both federal and provincial branches of government is absolutely huge for us,” Rysz says. “In recent years this responsibility has been downloaded on the communities, so its pretty unique for us to get this opportunity.”
MP for North Okanagan-Shuswap Mel Arnold says, “without a large residential or commercial tax base smaller communities just can’t afford a project like this. This bridge is a fairly significant artery in and out of town, to have the ability to improve that, to increase the pull of commerce and tourism through the community, is a big asset to Sicamous.”
Also announced on March 9 is $300,000 in additional grant funding which will go towards an upcoming flood mitigation project.
The money will go towards research, engineering and building of a dual-purpose walkway along the Eagle River which will also serve to prevent any flood waters from moving into the town centre.
Rysz and Arnold both compared this walkway to the famous Malecon walkway in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, a world-renowned tourist attraction. Similar to the sea-wall in Vancouver, the raised walkway also serves as a sort of dam which prevents rising water from flowing over the banks.
Now that the grant money is in the bank, planning and construction of the new bridge and walkway projects can move ahead. Mayor Rysz says, looking ahead, the idea of creating local jobs out of this project is something that is on his mind and the town of Sicamous will be lobbying to make that happen.