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Bridge still on the table for 8th Street repair, but questions remain

Main thoroughfare suffered partial washout during 2016 floods, which could be prevented by rebuilding span as bridge
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Crews repaired the flood-damaged 8th Street this summer. The region's MLA said the span could still be replaced with a bridge, but it's too early to say whether engineers will recommend that option.

Building a bridge on 8th Street to control floods would come at a steep cost, but the short-term pain might be worth the long-term gain.

That’s according to Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier, who says rebuilding 8th Street as a bridge is still on the table eight months after the street nearly washed out in a flood.

Last week, the province released new details on repair work still underway after Dawson Creek flooded during heavy rains June 16.

8th Street is built on an earthen berm with culverts allowing Dawson Creek to flow through. The road nearly washed out in the floods, temporarily stranding a carload of motorists driving on the night of the storm.

Culverts on 15th Street and Snake Pit Road east of town were destroyed in the floods, and 8th Street is “basically the last part with those culverts, and when they get plugged up they create issues,” Bernier said.

“The Ministry of Transportation is looking at all the different options, a bridge being one of them, but they haven’t landed on which direction they’re going to go,” he said.

As a provincial highway, 8th Street is under the jurisdiction of the province and not the City of Dawson Creek.

The city reopened 15th Street with a temporary bridge in January, replacing the culvert system that filled with debris and collapsed the night of the storm. Snake Pit Road has also been rebuilt as a temporary bridge, but it remains to be seen whether the province will pay for a permanent replacement.

Many see 8th Street as the crux of the problem. Dawson Creek has flooded twice in the past decade, and many say the damage has been made worse by backed up culverts on the road. Dawson Creek City Council earlier requested the province replace 8th Street with a bridge.

On a tour of the flood zone, Premier Christy Clark said engineers would consider a bridge as a permanent replacement, linking the increased frequency of floods in the region to climate change.  

Bernier said it would likely be several months before engineers have cost estimates for each of the proposals.

Replacing the roadway with a bridge “would definitely be disruptive,” Bernier said.

“I guess it would be the short-term pain for longer term gain,” he said. “It definitely would be disruptive, and it’s definitely not in the immediate future because they would have to price that all out, and they have to decide from an engineering standpoint what that would even look like.”

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