Craigflower Bridge is not falling down, but it’s being inspected routinely just to be sure.
The bridge, which connects Saanich to View Royal at the western end of the Gorge waterway, is in a state of disrepair and needs to be replaced.
Engineers from both municipalities met with representatives from the consulting firm Stantec to inspect the wooden structure last week.
“We know it’s lasted 78 years, there’s no reason to think that this year it’d fail,” said Jim Hemstock, manager of transportation with Saanich. “But just to be certain, we’re doing a close inspection every three months to see if there’s a change in conditions.”
Bryan Gallagher, structural engineer with Stantec, checked the wooden piles and stringers that make up the base and underside of the bridge.
He struck the wood with a mallet, listening for a damp thud to see if the rot is spreading.
Below the bridge there are occasional longitudinal cracks in the stringers, which support the heavy deck – but those aren’t new.
“We flagged certain elements that needed repair or further observation … to see if they’ve deteriorated,” said Paul Dudzinski, another Stantec engineer. “But basically there hasn’t really been any changes since the last time we had a look at it.”
Saanich engineering technologist Troy McKay says the splits are likely the result of an overloaded truck that stopped on the bridge.
The weight load was probably distributed more to the back tires, he says, which, when stopped, would’ve sat directly above the now-cracked stringer.
Much of the deterioration happens below the bridge deck, but the asphalt road on top covers three inches of concrete, the original surface.
It’s now broken up and needs to be replaced.
Last year Stantec was hired to look at the feasibility of repairing and widening the bridge.
It was deemed to be in such poor condition that repairs wouldn’t be worthwhile.
Instead, the bridge – originally built in 1933 – will be replaced, with the work expected to take until the end of 2012.
The Craigflower Bridge became the responsibility of Saanich and View Royal in the late 1990s, when B.C. municipalities were being forced to take over many roadways that had been maintained by the province.
Though repairs have been made since then, Hemstock said there are inspection reports that show concern for the condition of the bridge deck dating back more than a decade.
One option, instead of replacement, was to look at enforcing load restrictions. However, that would ultimately have a negative effect on businesses.
Craigflower is a major route for commuter and truck traffic. Roughly 18,000 drivers pass over the 120-metre structure every day, including countless semi trucks for area retailers. The bridge is also one of the quickest accesses to the Esquimalt naval base.
Load restrictions may still be required, however, if the bridge starts deteriorating faster and before a new one can be built.
“The two municipalities not only share borders, but share many common values, like community health and maintenance of our well-being through good economic measures,” said View Royal Mayor Graham Hill. “That all comes together in recognizing this bridge as a vital resource to our communities and to our region.”
What Craigflower’s replacement looks like has yet to be determined. Come September, Saanich hopes to have started public consultations on what the new bridge will look like.
The current plan, Hemstock said, is for three lanes total, plus bike lanes and pedestrian walkways on either side. They also hope to include an area where fisherman can continue catching herring.
“We know it’s an important bridge, so there could be any number of special places around it,” he said.
The area is important to local First Nations, as a former ceremonial site, as well as to the heritage community, with Craigflower Manor and schoolhouse nearby.
The bridge replacement, estimated to cost $10.2 million, will be paid for almost entirely through gas tax revenue funds allocated by the Capital Regional District.