Residents lobby for tunnel as Ministry considers options on how best to replace South Slocan Bridge
A plan from the Ministry of Highways to remove a bridge on Highway 3A in South Slocan has residents hoping a tunnel will be constructed that would allow continued access to the popular trails system.
The bridge, which has seen better days and is located a few kilometers east of the Highway 3A/6 Junction, will be torn down and replaced using fill used to bring the heavily travelled highway back to its current height.
Local residents, including Craig Lawrence, the Director for the Slocan Valley Heritage Trail Society, are hoping the Ministry will then build a tunnel through the new pass that would allow trail users to cross the highway safely.
“It is the position of the Slocan Valley Heritage Trail Society (SVHTS), as managers of the Rail Trail for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO), that a tunnel be included in this project. It would offer a safer, more easily available access point to the SVRT and help us to link with future trail routes,” Lawrence wrote in a recent press release.
“As well, it will allow local residents to continue having a safe walking route.”
The tunnel would allow the SVHTS to move the southern terminus of the trail to the south side of the highway, providing access in a much safer location. The Ministry also agrees that the current trailhead location is not ideal.
On top of that, the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) has designated the trail as a spur line, and a connection will be running between Nelson and Castlegar on the south side of the West Arm of the Kootenay River.
“We’re also trying to think in long term goals of having a safe access route to the Spokane Valley Trail which will keep people off the main highway, and be able to access our trail,” Lawrence said.
“The big hold up right now is that South end. We haven’t been able to finish developing anything down there since we took ownership, just because of this question of what’s going to happen with the bridge. It’s kind of ugly now but it really has potential for the future.”
Unfortunately, as with any project of this size, the question of funding is one of the largest barriers to the tunnel. The SVHTS currently manages the land for the FLNRO, and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure owns the bridge.
According to Lawrence, an agreement has been reached between the ministries with the FLNRO offering to chip in some percentage for the cost, although nothing concrete has been agreed upon.
Data gathered from the recent Regional District of Kootenay Columbia (RDCK) Recreation Masterplan indicates that massive numbers of locals use the trail with 89% of household survey respondents either “strongly agreed” or “somewhat agreed” that trails and pathways are important to their quality of life and 83% of household survey respondents either “strongly agreed” or “somewhat agreed” that trails and pathways bring the community together.
There will be an open house on Tuesday, March 1st from 4 to 8 p.m. at Mount Sentinel High School near the Highway 3A/6 Junction in South Slocan, where the Ministry will be looking to hear community feedback regarding the bridge replacement project.
Lawrence is encouraging both locals and enthusiasts to come and make their voices heard.
“I think the ministry folks are hoping that a lot of the community will come out, and that might go quite a long way to helping the powers that be recognize that there is really community support behind this issue,” Lawrence said.
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