Say goodbye to the little bridge on Nanaimo Avenue East.
Following the advice of staff and an engineering firm, council voted unanimously Tuesday to permanently remove the 30-metre bridge when that stretch of Penticton Creek undergoes restoration work that’s currently scheduled for 2024.
While the project is still years away, design work is underway now, but has been held up by questions about the bridge’s fate, according to Mitch Moroziuk, the city’s general manager.
As it exists today, the bottom of the bridge is 29 centimetres lower than required to handle a one-in-200-year flood event for which the municipality has to prepare.
“The water will actually be pushing against the side of the bridge, and that creates a significant risk from a flood-protection view, because that bridge could actually be dislodged and then pushed into the stream, and that would then cause significant issues for the downstream people,” he explained.
If the bridge were left in place, continued Moroziuk, it would need $250,000 worth of work in the next five to 10 years, and would probably prevent the city from obtaining the permits required to work in the creek because the structure would remain a pinch point for flooding.
The alternative, which council supported, will see the bridge removed to allow for expansion of the creek bed, and replaced with walking and cycling paths on both sides.
Once it’s gone, the closest non-vehicle crossing will be 335 metres away at Wade Avenue, while the closest vehicle bridge will be 407 metres away at Ellis Street, with additional crossings for cars at Vancouver and Eckhardt avenues.
Road realignments and a new left-turn lane at the intersection of Pickering Street and Haven Hill Road will be required, said Moroziuk, “but it’s not expected there will be any significant impacts on traffic by taking that bridge out.”
Finally, he told council, fire Chief Larry Watkinson has confirmed response times to the area will increase by 32 to 35 seconds once the bridge is gone, but the new routing will still be manageable in case of emergencies.
Design work for that stretch of Penticton Creek – approximately 300 metres upstream of the bridge – is being funded in part by a $159,000 grant from the South Okanagan Conservation Fund. The grant is flowing through the Penticton Flyfishers Club, and is being matched by the city.
The actual reconstruction cost of that portion of the creek, which was identified as a priority in the 2018 Penticton Creek Master Plan, is pegged at $3.4 million. So far the city has lined up just a single $750,000 grant for the project.
The creek restoration project began in 2013, and seeks to restore the creek's ability to support wild fish populations, provide flood protection for the community and offer greenspace in the heart of the city.
To date, two separate projects, which replaced an aging concrete flume with more natural habitat, have been completed on the creek extending from Ellis Street about 200 metres upstream to Nanaimo Avenue. Restoring the entirety of Penticton Creek within the city is estimated to cost in the neighbourhood of $30 million.