Tim O’Brien expects a newly-designed, pedestrian-friendly bridge spanning the Courtenay River would be a “beacon for people to come downtown and enjoy themselves,” if the project ever comes to pass.
O’Brien, a civil engineer and landscape architect, is part of the Sixth Street Bridge steering committee which had originally proposed a timber-framed bridge linking downtown Courtenay with Simms Park. A new plan calls for a cable bridge with a wood deck. On the park side would be steel supports tied to heavy blocks. The downtown side would feature a wooden archway and a plaza area.
The 60-metre bridge would be wide enough to accommodate pedestrians, cyclists and even an ambulance in case of an emergency — “but not too wide to make it too expensive,” O’Brien told Courtenay council Monday.
“We’ve taken some trouble to make the bridge as beautiful as possible so it becomes an asset to the community.”
The anticipated cost is $1.9 million. It would be paid by way of fundraising and grants, not taxes. The committee hopes the City would maintain the bridge.
“It’s a very low maintenance, long-lived bridge,” O’Brien said, noting galvanized steel girders underneath the deck, which would be lit at night.
The committee is seeking support in principle from council before approaching corporations, trusts and foundations. It has already received a number of calls from interested suppliers.
One fundraising idea is to sell the 240 planks comprising the deck.
“I really love this project,” Coun. Rebecca Lennox said. “I’m in definite support of this.”
Coun. Doug Hillian also praised the project, saying it is a unique and financially manageable idea.
“I see it as a tremendous effort of community spirit,” he said.
The bridge is intended to link pedestrian and bike trails on each side of the river, and to remove some of the pedestrian and bike traffic from the Fifth Street Bridge. A gentle slope would make it amenable to seniors, wheelchair users and children on bicycles.
Coun. Erik Eriksson was not sold on the idea. He feels people would continue crossing Fifth instead of walking underneath to access the new structure.
Eriksson has advocated for a new bridge at Fifth Street, but the rest of council voted to recoat the bridge for an estimated $2.2 million.
Mayor Larry Jangula feels the new proposal makes more sense than a covered wooden bridge. He asked if consideration had been given to a Fourth Street bridge linking the Filberg Centre with Lewis Park. Committee member Pippa Atwood noted the obstacle of negotiating the intersection at Fifth and Cliffe. O’ Brien noted that most residents live south of Third Street.
The previous council had granted support in principle to the original project. In 2013, government turned down a City application for a $1.9-million grant towards the wooden bridge proposal. Regarding $70,000 spent on a feasibility study, O’ Brien said the money was not mis-spent but has provided useful information for the committee to reference.