Two key Revelstoke bridges need fixing, but by whom?

An inspection report done by the Ministry of Transportation reveals structural issues on the Big Eddy bridge but there are no concrete plans for funding repairs.

Fourth Street Bridge. Photo: Aaron Orlando

A new city report reveals there is no funding plan for two aging bridges in Revelstoke, and it’s unclear who would foot the bill if something expensive went wrong.

Revelstoke city council received a letter in early 2022 from the public requesting an update on the structural stability of the Fourth Street and Big Eddy bridges. The letter references an article written in 2010 in which former District and Operations Manager at the B.C. Ministry of Transportation, Art McLean, comments that it is unlikely the bridge will last another ten years of service. Yet, here we are, more than ten years later and the bridge is still operational.

In early 2022, staff was directed to look into the information in the letter. Steve Black, Director of Infrastructure and Planning, prepared a report advising city council of the findings. The report reveals no formal maintenance agreement between the city and the Ministry of Transportation, and notes there is a risk that neither the city nor the ministry will be able to fund repairs for the bridges should “unforeseen issues” arise. 

The report, which was discussed at the June 28, 2022 council meeting, recommended the council support staff discussions with the Ministry of Transportation regarding the maintenance of the bridges.

“We’re in a place where we need to further refine our agreements with the province and understand how these bridges are going to impact the community’s budget in the future,” Black says. 

Historically, the ministry has considered the Fourth Street (Illecillewaet River) bridge property of the city since the early 1980s. Ownership of the almost 100-year-old Big Eddy Bridge, constructed in 1924, was transferred to the city in October 1998 after the declassification of the Big Eddy Road as an arterial road. The ministry maintains structural elements of both bridges and non-structural features are left up to the city — including the bridge deck, railings, and pedestrian walkways. 

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure conducted an inspection report in 2022.

“The 2022 inspection referenced bent gusset plates, corrosion on spans 1-6 below the deck level, and corroded traffic rails,” the staff report said. “At this time, MoTI has indicated that the findings of the 2022 report would not be immediately addressed through the award of a contract, a contract may be coming forth in the future.” 

As of now, the city has no funds to support anything more than “annual maintenance” on the two bridges despite the ministry’s 2022 report calling for many issues of structural nature to be addressed for the Big Eddy bridge.

“The City currently allocates $78,000 for annual maintenance. Without formal agreements in place, the city is at financial risk should a minor issue arise to these bridges,” Black says in the report. “Replacement of these structures represents millions of dollars in costs, and the City has no reserves set aside for this.”

The Big Eddy Bridge is a single-lane alternating bridge that spans the Columbia River. Built in about 1924, the bridge is aging and its load limit has been downgraded over the years. Photo: Nora Hughes

Essentially, the city has no plans should the bridge need replacing or anything more than annual maintenance. The Ministry of Transportation has identified structural issues but has no plans to address them. Neither the City of Revelstoke nor the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure plans to take action on the structural items identified in the inspection report leaving a significant questions about future management of the Big Eddy Bridge. 

As for the Fourth Street bridge, the ministry has not conducted an inspection of a structural nature in some time, the city says. However, city staff have asked that the ministry perform a structural review, and the ministry has given indication that this will happen soon.

Council supported the continuation of the conversation. The city hopes to figure out a maintenance plan with the ministry for who will fix what items on the bridges and when.

Nora Hughes is a recent graduate of the Thompson Rivers University Interdisciplinary Program, where she combined her passions for Adventure Tourism, Communications and Journalism. With a strong interest in community news, Nora is passionate about giving a voice and face to the people of Revelstoke through storytelling.