Even small crashes on the Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge can snarl traffic over the Fraser River for several minutes. (Adam Louis/Observer)

Bike, pedestrian lanes for Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge on hold amid seismic upgrades

District, residents urged government to address call for active transportation on bridge

A wider Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge will have to remain a long-term dream for now as the province readies to reinforce the critical connector as planned.

Chilliwack-Kent MLA Kelli Paddon recently forwarded concerns about the Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge to officials in Victoria. Paddon said she was thrilled with the province’s choice to invest in the bridge, which is scheduled to undergo seismic upgrades in the near future.

“(This project) will extend the life of the bridge, making sure it is safe and reducing the maintenance required on it,” she told The Observer.

However, Paddon said the current $36 million committed to the seismic widening would not be “anywhere near the amount” to fit the bridge for bikelanes or additional traffic lanes. She added more than $100 million would be among the most conservative estimates for work like that.

RELATED: Kent Council advocates for a wider Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge

“I’m not saying that isn’t an option, but it’s not what we’re talking about right now,” Paddon said. “it’s incredibly expensive and something to be considered and compared with other priorities in the region and see where that fits. There’s nothing saying that this can’t be something to be looked for in the future.”

While Paddon acknowledged and forwarded the criticisms about the bridge to officials in Victoria, she reiterated that she is grateful for the current government investment.

“The bridge is a critical connection in the community,” she said. “I’m hearing what people believe is needed is widening or more lanes in the bridge. It’s not what’s being planned right now, but with that being said, I did speak to (Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure) Rob Fleming and told him ‘this is what people are saying.’”

Paddon also carried the desire for active transporation in Agassiz-Harrison to Victoria and discussed the importance of the bridge and how much even a poorly timed fender-bender on the bridge could affect day-to-day life and emergency situations on both sides of the Fraser River.

Paddon said the retrofit project would take about three years to complete and is focused on improving structural integrity, replacing joints, repairing steel components and applying a protective coating to reinforce new and existing infrastructure.

These seismic upgrades have been in discussion since 2017, and the province has committed $36 million to a two-phase project. The first phase was completed in 2018 with the construction of the Rosedale Overhead.

RELATED: Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge construction could start in 2021, MLA says

During the June 14 District of Kent Council meeting, the council approved sending a letter of concern to Fleming, Premier John Horgan and Paddon.

The letter is signed from Mayor Sylvia Pranger, who wrote she was “deeply disappointed” to learn this project would be rehabilitation only.

“This bridge is a vital link between the Trans-Canada Highway and Lougheed Highway and connects many communities on both sides of the Fraser River, including Agassiz and Rosedale,” the letter reads. “However, it completely lacks a vital and extremely important active transportation link between these communities.”

The district’s Official Community Plan includes working with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure on constructing separate cycling and pedestrian lanes as well as relocating light poles to a safer location with the long-term goal of replacing the bridge with a structure that supports four traffic lanes and separate cycling/pedestrian lanes.

The letter acknowledged that the government has spent considerable funds to improve the bridge, but the lack of active transportation upgrades disregards the provincial government’s CleanBC plan and goes against its active transportation strategy.

Last month, The Observer conducted a brief survey on local concerns and wishes concerning the Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge. More than 280 responses were submitted.

The concerns about the bridge largely surrounded its width and its safety, especially relating to pedestrian and cyclist traffic. Just over 85 per cent of respondents seek wider pathways for pedestrians and cyclist traffic on the bridge and 60 per cent support the addition of two additional traffic lanes. 67 per cent supported both ideas simultaneously.

47 per cent of respondents said they would support two parallel one-way bridges over the current infrastructure; 5.4 per cent of respondents preferred that the bridge stay as it is, barring necessary maintenance and the current seismic retrofit upgrade project.

A number of readers submitted other ideas concerning the bridge, from simple ideas like the addition of a traffic camera and improved lighting to loftier undertakings such as a second bridge altogether for cyclists and pedestrians.

The results of the survey were shared with Paddon’s office. Paddon said there weren’t many surprises in the results as she’s heard feedback on the bridge already.

“We’re really, really grateful for the feedback,” Paddon concluded. “This office has received a lot of emails from people about the bridge – their hopes, thoughts, questions about the plans. We’re always happy to hear from people.”


@adamEditor18
adam.louis@ ahobserver.com

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