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Labour

Bridge a quandary

Journal Of Commerce

Oh dear, what can the matter be, this old bridge is under capacity, what to do is a big quandary, will a decision be made?

Infrastructure

Jim Stirling

Correspondent

Prince George

“Oh dear, what can the matter be,

this old bridge is under capacity,

what to do is a big quandary,

will a decision be made?”

Well, not any time soon, it appears. The long running saga that is the future of the Cameron Street Bridge across the Nechako River in Prince George has yet to run its course.

Engineers have scrutinized and analyzed the one-lane, traffic light controlled wooden structure on and off for years seeking – and finding – ways to prolong its useful life. But each time they do, the price tag for replacement, repair and expansion options soar – not to mention escalating maintenance costs – and the potential sources of funding assistance become more demanding.

Prince George was a very different community when the four span, 183 metre long Cameron Street Bridge opened in 1931. It was never designed to accommodate heavy industrial traffic like loaded logging and chip trucks rumbling across it day and night. It’s testament to its sound construction it has performed as well as it has.

The bridge which is not in use right now, is owned by Prince George and is city council’s headache. Frank Blues, the city’s transportation manager, updated council earlier this month on the latest opinions on the bridge’s health and the long and short term possibilities of various funding options.

Cost of a new crossing of the Nechako at approximately the same location as the Cameron Street Bridge is estimated at $18 million.

If the project qualified for funding under the federal/provincial municipal/rural infrastructure program, Prince George would be on the hook for about $6 million.

However, there is a less expensive alternative. Recent city-ordered engineering studies have indicated the old bridge’s piers despite being 75 years old could support a two-lane concrete deck and sidewalk.

Estimated cost there is $9.5 million (and a two year construction window) with the city’s share of approximately $3.3 million under the infrastructure program. But Blues cautioned council that support is by no means a given. This summer, the two senior governments announced $80 million is available through the infrastructure program for B.C. communities with populations less than 250,000 people.

About $48 million of that will be directed to so-called green projects associated with water, waste, public transit and projects with an environmental benefit.

It’s unclear where an updated Cameron Street Bridge may fit in that qualification criteria given the keen competition from other communities equally desperate to upgrade their ageing infrastructure.

City council has opted to sit tight until November when it’s slated to examine its 2007 capital works wish list. In the meantime, information on how likely the city is to obtain funding through various sources will hopefully be clarified.

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