By Tracy Hughes, Salmon Arm Observer
Plans to upgrade both the Malakwa and North Fork bridges to four-lane structures moved another step forward with a public presentation of the Ministry of Transportation’s plans.
Both bridges are intended to be revamped to include four lanes of roadway with wider shoulders, four-lane bridges, a paved median, rumble strips and clear zone areas to improve safety.
A Sept. 12 open house meeting drew 100 people to view the proposed plans, with a ministry spokesperson saying the feedback was mostly positive, with residents pleased that safety concerns and access issues would be addressed.
The current two-lane structures provide a so called, “pinch point” in the flow of traffic, which results in traffic disruption and safety risks.
At the presentation, it was noted that the Malakwa bridge has seen 30 collisions between 2002 and 2011. Two of those have been fatalities, 12 have resulted in injury and 16 had property damage only.
The North Fork bridge has seen a total of 61 collisions between 2002 and 2011. There has been one fatality, 15 injuries and 45 property damage collisions.
Common contributing factors in these collisions were unsafe speed, driving too fast for road conditions, narrow bridge structure and driving without due care and attention.
The existing traffic conditions also see approximately 6,000 vehicles per day crossing these bridges, a number which increases to nearly 11,000 per day during the summer months. Roughly 30 per cent of these vehicles are trucks.
A traffic study revealed that 63 per cent of drivers on the Malakwa Bridge would be directly following another vehicle, as would 61 per cent of drivers on the North Fork Bridge. Problems with traffic mobility include long traffic lines, driver frustration and unsafe passing maneuvers.
Upgrades will also eliminate the current load restriction risks associated with the current aging structures, as well as improvements for pedestrians and cyclists.
Up next for the project will be to proceed with additional consultation and design plans, including an archeological and environmental impact assessments to be completed in early 2013 for Malakwa and summer 2013 for North Fork.
Application for environmental approvals will also be initiated in early 2013 for Malakwa and in early 2014 for the North Fork project.
No timeline was given for the start and completion of construction.
Revelstoke mayor David Raven attended the Malakwa open house, where he also represented the CSRD. He said any new highway improvements are welcomed.
“We would like to see the piece in the middle completed too,” Raven said, encouraging the ministry to four-lane the section between the two bridge projects while they were at it. “We encourage them to tag it on now as a third contract,” he said.
“Some of these are fairly inexpensive,” Raven said, adding it was “a good start.”
— notes from Aaron Orlando