A truck crosses the Craigflower Bridge connecting View Royal and Saanich. The bridge will close to vehicle traffic at 5 a.m. Wednesday (April 10) as work will begin on building a replacement bridge.

A truck crosses the Craigflower Bridge connecting View Royal and Saanich. The bridge will close to vehicle traffic at 5 a.m. Wednesday (April 10) as work will begin on building a replacement bridge.

Craigflower Bridge – connecting Saanich and View Royal – to close Wednesday morning

Tillicum expected to take brunt of traffic; pedestrian crossing remains open

It doesn’t have the notoriety of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, nor does it come with the controversy of Victoria’s Johnson Street Bridge.

But it’s expected the 110-metre-long, 80-year-old Craigflower Bridge will be missed when it’s gone – at least for the time being.

Just before 5 a.m. Wednesday (April 10), the last vehicle will cross the old span, as it is permanently closed to mark the start of an eight-month replacement project.

“On Wednesday the first of the big cranes will arrive, and they’ll start building a work bridge on the west side of the old bridge,” said Jim Hemstock, Saanich’s manager of capital works, about the job plans of contractor Don Mann Construction. “They can also certainly start to strip the asphalt and old sidewalk out.”

Tillicum Road is expected to bear the brunt of the traffic diverted from the closure. Hemstock says a number of traffic lights on both sides of the Gorge will be reprogrammed to help ease congestion.

“No matter how you go about it everyone will be delayed,” said Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard.

Though all the details haven’t been hammered out, Hemstock says a temporary pedestrian bridge is expected to be built coming off the work bridge. Walkers and cyclists will still have access to the bridge’s east sidewalk for the next few weeks though.

As for the construction, Hemstock points to a tight schedule and a tight worksite as the biggest challenges for crews.

“We have our approvals from (the Department of) Fisheries and Oceans to work in the water as of April 15, but we have to be out of the water Sept. 15 before the salmon show up,” he said.

“Challenge No. 2 is the steel delivery. It’s a big bridge with quite deep girders and it requires large machines to bend them. There’s not a lot of room there.”

The old, timber-beam bridge will be deconstructed over a period of weeks, as opposed to a quick demolition.

The bridge will be replaced by a much wider three-lane steel bridge. Construction is scheduled to be complete on Dec. 1, 2013.

Of the project’s $13.2 million price tag, Saanich and View Royal have received $11.05 million in grants to pay for the replacement. The two municipalities will share the outstanding cost of the build.

with files from Charla Huber

kslavin@saanichnews.com