Editorial: Daly Overpass funding is key to a growing city

Once a new 18th Street bridge is constructed, residents, ratepayers and city administrators can breath a little easier and focus on other, much needed infrastructural upgrades and repairs.

As grows the population of Brandon, so grows an intensive need to maintain the city’s infrastructure, particularly in the area of streets and roads. That’s why last week’s provincial budget announcement that $70 million has been set aside for the replacement of the 18th Street bridge is integral to the city’s continued success.

The project has been on the city’s agenda for roughly a decade. When the floods of 2011 and 2014 struck the area, both the 18th Street Bridge (otherwise known as the Daly Overpass) and the 1st Street bridges were in even more dire need of restoration.

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Considering the condition of the 1st Street structure, that project was made a priority. The new bridge – two, twin-lane spans crossing the Assiniboine River – took two years to complete, finishing in late 2017. The original bridge was 40 years old and had suffered severe deterioration due to age and the impact of flooding through the decades.

First Street serves more than 14,000 motorists per day, therefore a substantial renovation or a completely new bridge was integral to both safety and meeting the needs of the city’s growing population.

The new structure, which came in at an estimated cost of about $50 million, is expected to last 70 years.

On March 7, Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative government announced that $70 million was earmarked for the Daly Overpass, which serves as a bridge over the Canadian Pacific Rail tracks for Provincial Truck Highway 10. Although this project is somewhat larger than the 1st Street job, the estimated cost of its replacement sat at $60 million just over a year ago. Since then, construction estimates have ballooned substantially, making its replacement even more time-sensitive. Should it be left too long, the chance of having the span totally rebuilt grows dimmer by the year due to the substantial investment by both the province and the city.

Now that the money is there, construction should begin posthaste. Traffic stats from 2010 showed that 20,000 vehicles cross the Daly Overpass every day. Like the cost of the project, that number only increases with the city’s growth trend.

In December of 2017, a public meeting presented to the public four variations of what a new 18th Street bridge would look like. The project is currently planned to be similar to the completed 1st Street structure, with two bridges containing two lanes each and one lane on each for pedestrian and bicycle use. All of the options – which include current alignments that are either slightly east or slightly west, or a curved overpass that curls either to the east or the west – propose a more gradual gradient than what currently exists for greater sight-lines and safety. Each option contains its benefits and detriments, the key issue at this point is to choose one and begin construction.

Once completed, residents, ratepayers and city administrators can breath a little easier and focus on other, much needed infrastructural upgrades and repairs.

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