Although a planning and preliminary engineering study has been completed to investigate feasible options for the replacement of the bridges on Highway 95, the project has been put on hold and is not slated for funding at this time.
The study, completed in 2016, laid out options for bridge replacements and improvements to the section of Highway 95, that leads through Golden. A business case for the project was developed and updated in the spring of 2018.
“While funding is not currently allocated in the short term capital program, having the planning work completed will enable the ministry to move forward with the project design and construction in the future,” Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) said in a statement.
Earlier this year, the Town of Golden was granted full funding for dike improvements along the Kicking Horse River, including a sea wall project that would span from Spirit Square to the larger Highway 95 bridge. According to MOTI, the future project on the highway will address any impacts the new bridge structure would have on the new dike and sea wall.
“Because of its adjacency to the Highway 95 bridge project, there are obvious synergies in those two projects, and it’s disappointing that we can’t realize those synergies now,” said Town of Golden CAO Jon Wilsgard. “All things being equal, our project will be finished before theirs. I just hope that if that is the flow of things that happens, we won’t be looking back thinking, ‘oh man, we could have done this if we had known.’”
The dike project funds are administered through the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, and Wilsgard has requested a meeting with the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Tevena in September. He hopes to ask her why the replacement project is taking longer than it originally seemed, and how it will work in conjunction with the sea wall project.
“What happened? Why can’t this move forward? This is really not a good thing. Particularly, when we know at the bureaucratic level regionally speaking, they were moving forward with this,” Wilsgard said. “They had open houses, they had concept plans. It was really going in. Suddenly, it just fell off the Earth. We have not been told why either. We have just been simply told that right now it is not within the three-year capital plan.”
MOTI says it prioritizes projects to improve sections of provincial roadways that have higher-than-average crash histories, high traffic volumes, and bridges that need replacing.
The ministry inspects the bridges annually, and says the bridges on Highway 95 continue to be safe for crossing, and they will continue to monitor when there is a threat of ice jams.
“While there is no funding allocated in the short term, the bridges remain in consideration for future funding,” MOTI stated. “While initial planning work has been completed, no finalization design has been chosen. There are a number of factors and unknown considerations, such as funding and property acquisition, that would help determine which design is put forward.”
One of the proposed designs included acquiring the CP Rail parking lot area across from 7-Eleven, to straighten out the corners on the road, which regularly cause congestion as transport traffic and large trailers negotiate the corners.
“The ministry understands the importance of this critical link and the role these bridges play in both local and regional transportation. These bridges are inspected annually and continue to be safe for crossing. These bridges have withstood many ice jam and high water events to date,” MOTI stated. “We have a rigorous inspection process and a comprehensive maintenance and rehabilitation program. Each ministry bridge is inspected once every year. The ministry supplements these with more extensive detailed inspections as needed.”
The Town of Golden is under deadline for the grant from the Federal Gas Tax Funds to improve the dike, and will have to begin construction on the project sooner than construction will begin on the Highway 95 bridges.