Timber has a much shorter lifespan than steel. That’s why half a million dollars is being spent to replace two wooden walking bridges over the Nicomekl River this summer.
In fact, one was dropped into place Friday morning over a section of the river, in the Nicomekl floodplain – along the City’s trail system.
The first new bridge was completed a few weeks ago. Wider than its predecessor, that new bridge – located next to the recently resurfaced Nicomekl 203rd Street driving bridge – took about six weeks to complete, said Rick Bomhof, the director of engineering, parks, and environment for Langley City.
The new three-metre-wide steel span replaces a metre-and-a-half-wide wooden bridge that was constructed back in 1987 – as part of the new Rotary Nicomekl floodplain trail network.
Likewise, the newest bridge – that’s been in the works for the past five weeks – is also more than double the width of the original bridge built in 1986, Bomhof explained. This one aligns north and south with 201A Street.
“Today, we lifted and directed the bridge into place… our whole family was here… it was a good day,” said project manager Dave Lammers from Seismic 2000 Construction, a bridge building and rehab company operating in Langley for the past 20 years.
While pre-assembled and dropped into place Friday morning, the newest bridge still required some finishing touches after the crane lowered it onto its new concrete footings, Lammers explained.
His team will spend the next week infilling up to the abutments, paving and linking into the existing trail, and cleaning up, Lammers said.
They hope to have everything finished by this weekend.
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In the meantime, the walking bridge work doesn’t end there.
This summer, there’s also a third, A-frame bridge – located a little further east in the floodplain – that will require some repairs.
It has some rotted timbers and suffers from termite damage, Bomhof elaborated.
“We had a bridge inspection done (a couple years back). We have them done every five years on all our bridges. And, it identified these ones as in need of being replaced in a kind of five-year horizon,” he said.
“It depends on how old [the bridges] are, and how they were built… and it also depends, when crossing a river, on whether the river moves a little bit or erodes the banks. That can influence the speed of when you have to replace them, or even repair, Bomhof said.
The walking bridges are just a small portion of the “hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure” in Langley City that needs regular upkeep, maintenance, and eventual replacement.
“There’s never a shortage” of work to be done, he added.
While he acknowledged that summer isn’t the most ideal time to replace the walking bridges due to increased traffic on the trails, Bomhof said there have been “very few” complaints.
“I think most people understand that when working around a creek, you need to do it during low flows. You don’t want to do it in the winter time, when you’re vulnerable to high peaks in water levels, and that kind of thing,” he said.
According to Bomhof, while the old bridges were just shy of 30 years old, he expects the new bridges to last upwards of 50 to 60 years.
“What we’re replacing is timber structures. And these [new] ones are steel structures,” he said. “It’s weathered steel, so they’ll last a lot longer than the timber ones.”
In addition to the increased width of the new bridges, and the more durable and long-lasting construction, efforts have been made to make the bridges more accessible for all, including improved grades leading up to the bridge deck and more space to allow ease of passing on the deck tops.
City Mayor Ted Schaffer, a regular user of the trail system, was excited to see the upgrades.
“As residents of this community for almost 40 years, my wife Jean and I have walked every trail and crossed every bridge hundreds of times,” Schaffer said.
“We recognize our good fortune to live in a community where maintenance and improvements on our many public assets are done in a timely and progressive manner. The emphasis on parks and public spaces in recent years has been significant, and I am very proud of the results of this bridge replacement project, and of all the work this council and our dedicated staff have done. Langley City truly is the place to be.”