The Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge could be under construction as soon as spring 2021, although according to Chilliwack-Kent MLA Laurie Throness, there’s still a lot that needs to be done before that can happen.
On Wednesday, June 12, Throness met with the Ministry of Transportation’s district manager (Lower Mainland District) Elena Farmer to discuss the status of the Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge seismic upgrades.
The engineering design process for the bridge has just begun, he said, and is expected to be finished by the end of the year. After that, the project will need to go through tenders, permits and consultation before construction can take place.
“They probably won’t start the work right during the winter, so it will probably be spring 2021 when the work actually happens,” he said.
Importantly, he added, the cost of the bridge upgrades is expected to be “much more” than expected.
When the project was first announced in 2017, the projected budget was supposed to be $36 million for both the Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge and the Rosedale Overhead.
According to Throness, the Rosedale Overhead cost more than expected, as did recent upgrades to Pier 7 on the bridge.
The pier was being scoured by the fast-moving river, and needed to be shored up to keep the bridge safe.
Crews drove piles around the bottom of the pier on the river side and then connected the pier to one the bridge’s land piers, an underground substructure that helps keep the bridge stable. Construction for that project began in February and was completed sometime in April.
“They don’t think it’s going to be nearly adequate,” Throness said about the remaining funds from the original $36 million.
Because of the expected increase in cost — Throness didn’t know how much of an increase was anticipated — the project will likely need to return to the legislature for more funding. If all goes according to plan, Throness said, the Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge project will be included in the 2020 budget.
Although construction isn’t expected to start until 2021 or later, Throness still plans to meet with Ministry of Transportation staff to share his thoughts on what should happen with the bridge.
“I think it’s inevitable, safety has to be our first concern,” Throness said about the project. “It has to be done, and it’s an unfortunate thing, and it’s going to inconvenience people for, I would think at least a year, crossing the bridge.
“But it’s my commitment to constituents to really ascertain their will and receive their suggestions.”
Throness has already put in some suggestions of his own for the bridge. So far, he’s proposed opening the walkway under the bridge, currently used for maintenance, so that pedestrians and bicyclists can travel beneath the cars.
“I think that would be a real tourist draw and it would be much safer,” he said, adding that Farmer said she would take that idea back to the design team for the bridge.
He’s also advocating for better organization for commuters during construction, something he says was lacking during construction on the Rosedale Overhead.
“I really want to improve the way we manage this construction,” Throness said.
“I don’t want to have a light at the beginning of the bridge and a light at the end of the bridge,” he added. “I want the light to be moving along with the construction so you can just quickly pass by the construction zone and we can minimize the disruptions.”