The Regional District of Nanaimo is advancing plans for a bridge over the Nanaimo River from South Wellington to Cedar, favouring a $5-million truss bridge over a less expensive suspension bridge.
A feasibility study was conducted in 2014 and updated by Herold Engineering Ltd. in 2022. While RDN staff suggested a suspension bridge with an estimated $4-million price tag, the regional parks and trails select committee is recommending a $5.2-million steel truss bridge.
According to Herold Engineering, preliminary design for the structure on Morden Colliery Trail would require two distinct bridge spans of 110 metres and 100m.
“The bridge deck options consist of cast-in-place concrete utilizing ‘stay-in-place’ steel forms, galvanized steel or aluminum grading planks anchored to bottom truss cords, or dimensional treated timber,” stated Herold Engineering. “Pedestrian barriers can be fabricated using steel tubing attached to the truss on each side of the bridge.”
While more expensive, the steel bridge would benefit constituents and provincial funding could offset expenses, said Jessica Stanley, Cedar area director, speaking at a meeting Tuesday, Oct. 3. A suspension bridge could limit trail uses, and Stanley said the RDN has “one chance to get this right.”
“We are absolutely in the time of active transportation, so I do really think that it would be a mistake to not make the bridge accessible for multiple forms of active transportation and invest in a truss bridge…” she said. “Suspension bridges simply aren’t suitable to ride your bikes across and they’re really hard to walk your bike across. They’re also not accessible to wheelchairs and they’re certainly not accessible for horses.”
Stanley said parents with strollers would also have a hard time navigating a suspension bridge, though Amy Gore, RDN superintendent of parks, planning, research and development, said whether it is accessible for cyclists or strollers is subjective.
The location is “ideal for active transportation,” according to the Cedar area director.
“It is a straight shot to the highway, just up from Morden Road … and just across from the highway, and via what is already an underground tunnel there, it goes under the highway, it takes your directly to one block later to the South Wellington Community Centre, so that’s an important piece,” said Stanley.
Among the directors voting in opposition was Erin Hemmens, committee chairperson, who had monetary concerns.
“I definitely appreciate the arguments made by director Stanley; however, I am aware that cost escalations are very likely on this project and we have increasing pressures on our parks budget,” said Hemmens.
Stanley, Bob Rogers, Teunis Westbroek, Paul Manly, Stuart McLean, Lauren Melanson, Sean Wood and Ben Geselbracht supported the motion, while Hemmens, Vanessa Craig, Mark Swain, Lehann Wallace and Leanne Salter voted against.
The motion is expected to go before directors at their Oct. 24 board meeting and if approval is given, design work and related studies would begin. It is also contingent on approval in the 2024 budget.
Staff estimated the earliest construction could begin is 2025.