According to a recent update, the replacement for the RW Bruhn Bridge along Highway 1 won’t be the five-lane structure previously chosen by the province after much public consultation.
Following a series of engagement opportunities with Sicamous residents, including a survey, open houses and a town hall meeting, through which the public provided input on three replacement options, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure announced in 2018 that the existing bridge would be replaced by a five-lane span.
Sicamous Mayor Terry Rysz was a vocal proponent for one of the other options that included a four-lane highway bridge accompanied by a smaller one at Main Street. The plan with the Main Street bridge was endorsed by the Sicamous council at the time.
Though the project is currently in the detailed design phase, recent information released by the ministry, including videos and a Winter 2021 update, shows a four-lane structure – without the second bridge at Main Street.
A ministry representative said the most recent design was selected because it will allow for the closure of the Old Spallumcheen Road intersection at the west end of the existing bridge. The closure of the intersection will improve safety for users of the highway according to the ministry.
Regarding the change from five lanes to four, the ministry said this is to reduce the impact of the project on areasidentified as culturally or archaeologically sensitive, and will also allow the existing bridge to remain in service during construction of the new span.
The ministry anticipates construction of the bridge will take three years. Tree clearing and relocation of utilities are expected to be complete this year and the project is now expected to go to tender in 2022.
Along with information on project progress and next steps, the ministry released two videos which show a 3D rendering of the bridge and the off ramp and underpass which will be used to access Old Sicamous Road and Old Spallumcheen Road. The underpass was a feature of the five-lane design which is being carried over to the new plan.
According to the ministry, the project remains on-budget: $224.5 million in funding for the project was approved in 2018, with $91 million of the total coming from the federal government.
Mayor Terry Rysz says he thinks the ministry has made up their mind about the direction the bridge project will be taking but he wants to see some features added to it. Rysz said he wants to ensure ease of access for traffic off the highway into Sicamous’ downtown commercial areas, and easy access to the west side of the Sicamous channel.
In particular, Rysz said he and the rest of the Sicamous council would be lobbying the ministry for help in building an extension of Silver Sands Road allowing another access point for drivers to get off the highway and into town.
Since the second car bridge at Main Street was removed from the plans, Sicamous’ council has been seeking help for the construction of a pedestrian suspension bridge over the channel. Rysz said the ministry referred them to an active transportation grant program, but he estimated the cost of a suspension bridge at over $5 million and was unsure how much of the grant would cover. He said a pedestrian link across the Sicamous channel is essential to the District’s plans to serve as a gateway to the Sicamous to Armstrong Rail Trail which is under construction.
While the current plan for the highway bridge shows a walkway alongside the eastbound lane of the highway, Rysz said he has concerns about the safety of the walkway and how it will tie into the rail trail. The existing bridge has a walkway which is not separated from traffic by barricades as the one in the photo is. Two vehicle collisions in recent years have forced vehicles over the walkway only to be stopped by the bridge railing itself, damaging it in both cases.
Overall, whatever design is settled on, Rysz said it is clear that the existing highway bridge must be replaced as soon as possible.