Municipal engineers are at the mercy of the fish in the Gorge Waterway, complicating plans to build the new Craigflower Bridge.
Because of a herring run in the spring and a salmon run in the fall, construction on the bridge’s replacement can only happen in the few months that make up the window between runs.
“It’s important to meet our (timeline) targets, because we’re only allowed in the water for a short period of time,” said Jim Hemstock, director of engineering for Saanich.
“We have to start (construction) June 1 or we’re in trouble. We have to get the piles drilled and the piers constructed, then they can pretty much work above the water.”
Saanich council is expected to discuss the conceptual design of the bridge at its next meeting on Feb. 6.
View Royal council, which shares ownership of the bridge with Saanich, has approved the design and the option to close the bridge completely during construction.
On Thursday, Saanich’s planning, transportation and economic development committee approved the bridge, understanding that the project needs to keep moving forward to stay on schedule.
The next step, Hemstock said, entails more comprehensive work on the bridge and connecting roads, looking at cost estimates and creating a traffic management plan.
An open house where the public can view the final plans is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 22.
Come April, Hemstock hopes to have full project approval from both councils, so a request for proposals can go out to seek a builder to start June 1.
But some feel the expedited timeline is too fast, and that details needing attention are being overlooked.
“If you talked to us beforehand, we would’ve told you how infrastructure like this affects the whole community, not just one area,” said Rob Wickson, president of the Gorge-Tillicum Community Association, referring to higher speeds and more neighbourhood traffic.
The community is also upset about the three-lane design, he said — no option was ever put to the community to keep it at two lanes.
Saanich and View Royal should instead look at ways to reduce traffic on the bridge and keep it two lanes, he said.
The current bridge is 10 metres wide. The proposed design will more than double its width to 22.5 metres.
Besides three vehicle traffic lanes, the bridge is slated to include wide bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides. There’ll also be spots for herring anglers to fish off the side of the bridge.
The current plan, if approved, would see the bridge shut down completely for an estimated six months during construction.
This would be the most efficient way to work, Hemstock said, rather than providing an alternating single lane of traffic to drivers.
Ongoing discussions are looking at ways to accommodate pedestrians during the bridge’s closure, including the possibility of using a water taxi.
Saanich is also looking at simultaneously replacing sewer infrastructure along Gorge Road, between Admirals and Tillicum roads, during the bridge construction. That would require Gorge Road to be shut down completely, too.
“There’s an advantage to doing it at the same time as the bridge closure, because of the reduction in traffic impact,” said Sean Elliott, senior sewer infrastructure technologist with Saanich.
Replacing the nearly 80-year-old Craigflower Bridge with the proposed span is estimated to cost $10.8 million, of which $10 million will be paid for through a federal gas tax grant.
Saanich will cover 60 per cent of the remaining bill, with View Royal covering the rest.
Updates on the project are available at www.saanich.ca/services/roads/craigflower.html. Feedback on the project can be emailed to email@example.com.