Instead of a paint job on an outdated and unsafe structure, Erik Eriksson would like to see a new bridge constructed on Fifth Street.
The Courtenay councillor has received positive feedback about his idea for a new bridge that would be wide enough to accommodate motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.
It would be something like the new Craigflower Bridge in Victoria that includes three vehicle lanes, bike lanes, widened sidewalks and enhanced lighting. Nearly $14 million of the $15.5 million to replace the bridge was covered through the federal gas tax fund. The Town of View Royal and ICBC also kicked in funds.
Eriksson considers the Craigflower Bridge to be a “mark of pride,” as opposed to the “hulking monster from the ’50s” that spans the Courtenay River.
When driving down the Fifth Street hill, motorists are confronted with an abutment where a veering left turn is needed to access the bridge.
“Coming back the other way you see a monster built in the ’50s,” Eriksson said at the Feb. 10 council meeting. “I want to ask everybody when they see this, do they really want to have this for another 50 years?”
The Fifth Street Bridge was built in 1960.
It has since undergone a deck resurfacing, seismic upgrades and other maintenance. Cost to repair and recoat is estimated at $2.2 million. Recoating will potentially extend the life of the bridge another 50 years.
Eriksson was the lone member of council opposed to recoating as the preferred project to receive federal funds.
He notes the Craigflower is a three-span bridge 115 metres long while the the Fifth Street Bridge is single span and less than half the length. A wider, safer bridge would encourage cycling, he added, also noting the esthetic appeal.
“We want to attract economic development. Why not a complete bridge? What an asset that would be to our downtown — not to help the businesses per se, but to help us as a community to have a beautiful downtown.”
Though located in Courtenay, Eriksson said the structure would be a Comox Valley bridge. He therefore feels broader involvement is required in the discussion.
“We should all be part of this. I think it’s worth getting people wondering about it and whether or not they want to do it.”
Recoating the bridge is pending approval of a grant application to the Building Canada Fund. The program requires local governments to contribute one-third of the funds for projects.