The City of Brandon held its latest consultation meeting on the 8th Street Bridge last night in the atrium at city hall. It was a very informative meeting, with the city’s Manager of Development and Transportation, Coenraad Fourie, going through the options and explaining the pros and cons of each approach.
A number of options were presented for the bridge.
- Demolish the bridge without replacement. This is the lowest cost option, yet still turns out to be expensive. You cannot just knock this bridge down, it is over an active rail corridor, so just taking it down will cost just over $2-million. Abandoning it is not an option as it would be a safety issue for both the rail company and the city as the bridge deteriorates further.
- Fix the bridge in place. This is initially cheaper that the first option, but the process to get it usable would take 3 years, there is no guarantee that the bridge would not present further problems presently unforeseen, and would only get us five more years out of the bridge. At that point we would be at the point of having to demolish the bridge anyway since both sections would be past their expected end-of-life dates, making this option much more expensive than demolishing the bridge now.
- Demolish and replace. This would not take much longer than fixing the bridge, as building a new bridge is much easier than repairing an old one. The problem here is cost and location. By present day standards, the bridge would have to attach to Rosser Avenue on the south side and would extend a distance past Stickney Avenue in order to achieve proper grade. The bridge would have to be higher and much longer, so it’s not just the cost of the bridge, but of the lands that would have to be acquired to build it. Also, within a year or two of its completion, such a bridge becomes redundant to most of the population of Brandon as we will have new twin bridges at both 1st Street and 18th Street.
- Demolish and build a pedestrian bridge. This option is cheaper than a traffic bridge and does not necessarily require new land as the approaches to achieve grade do not have to be straight but can be curved up to the proper height. It also has a longer expected life span as it is not subject to all of the same conditions that make a traffic bridge deteriorate. It would last about 75 years. However, it still isn’t cheap as the Transport Canada regulations require it to be built to withstand a train collision, meaning that it would have to be much tougher than your average pedestrian bridge. Price would probably be over $11-million
I personally like option number four. The question is cost versus benefit. If you just look at the numbers it would appear that the current bridge does not get enough foot traffic to warrant such a replacement. From the city’s point of view, I would guess that it would not. So the question becomes, “How much is it worth to Canadian Pacific to keep people from trespassing on their tracks to get from one side to another?”
My feeling? We’re going to be demolishing this bridge. There is no doubt that the current structure is not only past its end-of-life, but dangerously past. In fact, we should consider ourselves lucky that two heavy vehicles did not pass each other on the bridge in just the right place, as the bridge could have experienced a “catastrophic” failure. The probability of such a failure is still there even if we fix it as there is no guarantee that we can 100% enforce weight limits. From a liability standpoint, we cannot keep the current bridge.
So we have to knock it down regardless. It is done.
Replacing it seems redundant. Once the province finishes the two other spans we will no longer have bottlenecks on those two routes, and my suspicion is that traffic wanting to use 8th Street would be even less. There is also something else to consider; the new bridges that the province is building will be twin bridge structures, meaning that an accident on one of these bridges will not close 18th street as area residents claim, leaving the other span open for emergency vehicles to access. Even with the 8th Street bridge gone, my suspicion is that the area still has some of the best emergency response times in the city. Transport to the hospital is now longer than they are used to, but I would argue that many more places in the city are further away from the hospital than any of these properties in question.
It comes down to this. When asked last night, area residents said that they wanted a new bridge no matter what the cost. Unfortunately, the city has to take cost into account and has to answer to more residents than only those in the area. It is not economically or politically viable to replace the 8th Street Bridge.
We need to take it down, and the sooner the better as the price will only go up. In the meantime we find out if CP Rail will cost share on a pedestrian bridge to help keep people from trespassing on their tracks.