A Thompson River crossing that has served the community of Spences Bridge since 1931 will be permanently closed at year’s end.
Old Spences Bridge — not to be confused with a nearby newer bridge that connects the Trans-Canada Highway to the town — has reached the end of its life, the Ministry of Transportation announced in a news release on Thursday.
The bridge was first closed in 2009 after concern was raised about its structural integrity. After inspection and an engineering review by the firm Buckland & Taylor, it was temporarily reopened in 2010 for light vehicle traffic only.
A more recent review revealed that the bridge, built to last 50 years, is well past its design life. Key structural components are in poor condition and there is a risk that the bridge could collapse under its own weight due to snow and wind loading, engineers found.
The ministry held a community consultation about the closure and planning options earlier this month. Dec. 20 is the deadline for feedback on a discussion guide posted at th.gov.bc.ca/OldSpencesBridge.
While upgrading the single-lane structure was considered as an option, it would take $10 million and a two-year closure to add a maximum of 10 years’ life. A replacement bridge would cost $15 million and three years of construction. Other options include replacing it with a new pedestrian-only crossing or decommissioning the bridge and making local improvements.
Only the last option appears to be on the table. The ministry stated that it is seeking input on opportunities to improve service on the new bridge for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists.
In its discussion guide, the ministry noted that it has an inventory of 2,800 structures, many of which were built in the 1950s and ’60s, and which are also approaching the end of service life.
The 82-year-old structure is not the first Spences Bridge, the one from which the town took its name.
In 1865, Thomas Spence built the first river crossing, a toll bridge that was part of the Cariboo Wagon Road and attracted permanent settlement. A few remnants of that bridge, destroyed in an 1894 flood, can still be seen at low water prior to spring runoff.