View Royal’s share of the cost to replace Craigflower bridge is far beyond what its tax base can support, says the town’s mayor.
“Relying on tax revenue, we’re not equipped to respond to major infrastructure projects like this,” said Graham Hill, mayor of the community of 8,000.
View Royal spent $20,000 for contractors to evaluate the bridge and has another $30,000 earmarked in its 2011 budget for repairs to the span. Saanich is also pouring money into 77-year-old bridge that connects the two municipalities.
But ultimately Craigflower bridge will need to be replaced in the next five years if it’s going to continue to carry the daily load it sees now — about 18,000 vehicles per day.
“The plan is to have it held together with chewing gum or whatever until we amass the fund to replace it,” Hill said at a recent council meeting where a motion was unanimously passed to ask the Capital Regional District to help fund the replacement project.
Hill said there will also be grant applications made to provincial and federal governments once design work is done and the project is “shovel ready.”
The existing 116 metre timber trestle built in 1933 carries two travel lanes, with narrow sidewalks on either side. A consultant proposed a $7 million replacement with three lanes (one in each direction, plus a southbound right-turn lane), bike lanes, sidewalks almost three times the current width, platforms for herring anglers and a possible wildlife viewpoint.
Councillors questioned if all the additions are necessary.
“We’re chasing very limited dollars in the region,” Coun. John Rogers said. “Could we do without the herring platform and viewpoint?”
Coun. David Screech also questioned the need for the third vehicle lane. Engineering director Emmet McCusker said the bridge is being designed to last 100 years and should account for future need.
“If we don’t three-lane it now, we’ll wish we did when it’s a source of bottleneck in a few years,” McCusker said.
McCusker also pointed out that herring anglers have a long tradition of using the bridge and the platforms will improve safety.
The cost of the structure will be split 50-50 between View Royal and Saanich, but each municipality will be responsible for road upgrades for the approaches in their borders ($400,000 for the View Royal side and $2.75 million for Sannich). The total bill for the project rings in at nearly $10.2 million.
The bridge, constructed and maintained by the provincial government until 1998, was known to be in need of replacement when it was “gifted” to municipalities, along with the rest of the old Island Highway network.
“What a gift!” View Royal Mayor Graham Hill said, chuckling. “Now we have to find a way to maintain it.”