I have followed the debates and proposal for a wooden cycle/pedestrian bridge over the
Courtenay River at Sixth Street with growing reservations, which have now culminated in a
funding dilemma concerning the Fifth Street bridge.
Regardless of the tourist appeal of a covered bridge, possible spin off benefits to downtown merchants and the creation of a purported link for cyclists/safe river crossing, there are existing recent traffic and bridge studies which did not include this option.
A conventional third crossing of the Courtenay River has been clearly identified as a major priority and the 2005 Traffic Study also included a recommendation to replace the Fifth Street bridge with a modest increase in width to four lanes. I am sure that cyclists and pedestrians could be accommodated. Painting and repairing the existing bridge would also be a waste of taxpayer’s money.
In order to allow for the replacement of the Fifth Street bridge, the first priority should be completion of the recommendations to widen the Condensory Road and Puntledge Bridge and the long overdue North Connector link, from the Inland Highway to the Lerwick Road/19A Island Highway.
In the long term there should be plans for an estuary bridge crossing at the 29th Street intersection to provide a major link to Comox. This should be the third bridge crossing and would not have to be a raising type bridge
The council seems to have lost sight of these standing recommendations and jumped on the band wagon pulling $100,000 out of the hat to fund preliminary studies for the wooden bridge which will not solve the major traffic concerns. In addition:
1) The intersection of Sixth and Anderton is a congested commercial bottleneck.
2) Sixth Street is very steep and not cyclist or pedestrian friendly, with only one sidewalk.
3) Maintenance costs of a wooden bridge structure would be extremely high considering the use of toxic preservatives within the sensitive river environment.
4) A large section of the riverbank/flood plain would be impacted .
5) Insofar as the tourist appeal is concerned, there is stiff competition from Oregon our neighbour to the south, which has more than 50 covered bridges, all connected in a tranquil rural country road network. Designed for pedestrians/cyclists and motorized vehicles.
In a lighter vein – given the steepness of Sixth Street, a greater tourist appeal would be to install an Evel Knievel ramp at the bottom for daredevil cyclists to cross the river!