Kimberley Mayor Ron McRae, City Councillors and City staff were on hand last Thursday evening in the North Star Room at the Kimberley Conference and Athlete Training Centre to update citizens on the progress of the Mark Creek Flume replacement project.
In the end, much of the discussion of the evening was around the removal of the St. Mary Bridge and possible solutions to resulting traffic issues that will arise from that.
City Manager of Operations Mike Fox presented a brief slide show of the construction, saying that at the moment it consisted primarily of digging. He said work was proceeding quite quickly and this week a W-weir would be placed at the bottom end of the project and rip rap would begin arriving for the creek bottom.
However, the majority of the questions from the audience were around the bridge. Why couldn’t it be saved or replaced? What about the intersection at the top of Leadenhall where turns can be difficult?
Both Fox and McRae explained that the current bridge was no longer considered safe. Fox said that he had been told to close it last year but was given a bit of an extension. It is at the end of its serviceable life, he said.
It could be replace but would be cost prohibitive. Fox said the current bridge is about six or seven metres in length. Given the widening of the creek with the flume project, a new bridge would have to be over 20 metres.
A secondary bridge is being looked at, Fox said.
McRae said that he city would work with residents of that area to find the best location for a secondary bridge. He said the fact was the St. Mary bridge had to be closed and it was important to work with the present situation rather than focus on the past.
One of those residents, Gord Dobson, said he had been doing quite a bit of research, talking to delivery people, firemen, ambulance paramedics, garbage truck drivers and more. He felt a solution could be found.
“We want to work with you guys,” he said. “The approach can’t be negative. We have to be positive.”
Dobson said that in his opinion, and that of others he has been conversing with, a bridge at Jennings Avenue may be the best location. Fox said that site had been looked at, but he wasn’t opposed to looking at it again. There were potential access issues on the other side of the creek, he said.
“The City has made no decision on the location of a secondary bridge,” McRae said. “We will work closely with those affected by this.”
In the meantime, this winter the only access will be out through Leadenhall. Beale and Leadenhall streets will be put on the City’s priority snow removal list, meaning they will be plowed and sanded early and often.
There was much discussion about the intersection of Leadenhall and Wallinger Avenue. Fox said the City was aware that it is a turn with some difficult sight lines.
“Highways is looking at the corner at the top. ICBC is looking at it. Our engineering consultants are looking at it. It’s not that we aren’t getting advice.”
McRae added that there have been no accidents recorded at that intersection since police began computerized records in 2007.
“ICBC has no recorded accidents at that intersection,” he said.
Fox said the City had traffic counters in that neighbourhood and found that more vehicles entered through the St. Mary bridge and exited on Wallinger than the other way around.
“We did the science as best we could on that area,” he said.
Dobson also suggested that when a secondary bridge was put in, making Leadenhall a one way from the top may be a solution.
In the end the Mayor reiterated his promise to work with residents of that neighbourhood.
“It’s a work in progress,” he said. “Yes, we are all being challenged by it. But we are creative people and we can work this out. I commit that we will work through it with residents.”
McRae also reminded people that while the flume project was primarily a health and safety issue, the naturalization of the creek through Kimberley would be a positive for Kimberley in other ways as well.