There seems to be this feeling that just because you’ve always had something a certain way, that it should stay that way. At least that seems to be the attitude when it comes to the Eighth Street bridge in Brandon.

A couple of years ago Dillon Consulting was tasked with the job of coming up with plans for the aging structure. It is obvious to anybody looking at the structure that the bridge is nearing the end of its useful life, at least as a traffic bridge.

So, they came up with 4 options. All of them replaced the bridge in some fashion with another traffic bridge. According to a story in the Brandon Sun last week, the costs for these options range from $20 million to $34 million. Let me write that long hand:


This is where the study falls down. Where is option E? Build an “active transportation” link, for walking and cycling, and forget about building a new traffic bridge. It seems to me that in 2013 that the “no bridge” option is perhaps the best.

The problem lies in the fact that some people think that they are having something taken away from them. I recall some discussion on eBrandon about option E and there was definitely some resistance to not having a traffic link to downtown. However, if you really start to think about it, there is not really a good reason to have a traffic bridge between downtown and “The Flats”.

What are the reasons to have a traffic bridge between the two areas?

The first reason seems to be that the 18th Street Bridge is seen as too far away to be an effective link for the area. Some simple math shows this to be untrue. At 50km/h it should take about 45 seconds to get to 18th, about 30 to get over the bridge, and another 45 to get back to the other side of the 8th street bridge. At the speed limit it should take less than three minutes to make the trip, probably closer to two.

The second argument I’ve heard is about ambulance times to the hospital. My first point partly addresses this, and I suspect that at ambulance speeds that the extra time would be negligible. Combine that with the fact that the new fire hall is essentially IN the same neighbourhood and it could be argued that “the flats” have some of the fastest response times from the time of the call to the front door of the emergency department at the hospital. Someone calling from the west end would certainly have longer wait times both ways.

Yes, I can see how an active transportation link to the flats would be considered needed. On foot or bicycle, the distance is too far to go around, but in a car it is not enough of a hindrance to spend $20 million to $34 million.

In my opinion, the eighth street bridge cuts the neighbourhood in half that it is supposed to serve. The whole area looks like a nice place except for that area directly adjacent to the bridge. I personally feel that if the bridge was gone and had only a pedestrian bridge in its place, it would positively affect the neighbourhood. I suspect that most of the traffic is a shortcut to the Corral Centre and that 8th Street North would be safer without it.

Money saved could be used to start improving other routes west of Eighteenth Street where the traffic bottleneck really originates, or improving pedestrian safety in other areas. (Try walking down Currie Boulevard almost any day of the year, and you will not be able to comprehend the lack of a sidewalk for the people of Brentwood to get to the rest of the city. But that is another topic for another post.)

There is no sensible, economically sound reason to replace the Eighth Street bridge with another traffic bridge.