The 8th Street Bridge in Brandon needs to be replaced and reopened, say residents who are petitioning city council to make it a priority.
A petition to have the bridge replaced with a new structure, which could cost the city more than $35 million, has gathered more than 2,300 signatures.
The city-owned bridge was closed in July due to safety concerns, creating traffic headaches on Brandon's two other bridges and major detours for those needing to get to the other side.
The bridge was built in two sections, the first in 1934 and the second in 1968. It spans several railway tracks that run through the city.
Corey Roberts is a former city councillor who has been helping distribute the petition.
"Now to do any shopping or get to the hospital, it's double the transportation cost." - Corey Roberts, former city councillor
Roberts said there has been a steady flow of people coming into his office at Sokol Manor and Sokol Supportive Housing to sign the petition. Signatures were unsolicited — organizers didn't go door-to-door to seek support.
Frustrating inconvenience, residents say
Brandon resident Sharon Kemp got the idea to start the petition after she noticed a drop in the number of people attending a weekly bingo she helps manage.
"We host a bingo every Wednesday afternoon and we've noticed a difference in our attendance," Kemp said. "They have said it takes X number of minutes longer to get there, and in some cases, it's the taxi fare."
Kemp also finds it tough to get around town.
"Frustratingly longer," she said. "You're stopped in places you don't really want to be."
"They have said it takes X number of minutes longer to get there, and in some cases, it's the taxi fare." - Sharon Kemp, Brandon resident
The success of the petition has people hoping the city will decide to invest in a new bridge that can handle all types of vehicles, Kemp said.
"My hope is growing," said Kemp. "We're having an awful lot of people come on board. People who don't even live in this area are saying that it is a pretty important section of town to be connected with."
The petition will be presented to Brandon city council on Monday.
City discusses three options
Members of Brandon city council held an information meeting in mid-November to answer the public's questions and to discuss the three options currently on the table:
- Option 1: Rehabilitate the bridge to allow limited vehicle traffic
- Option 2: Demolish and replace
- Option 3: Demolish and replace with pedestrian/cyclist crossing
Mayor and council could debate which option is best as early as January, a city spokesperson said this week.