Voght Street | Middlesboro Bridge Replacement
DESIGN ESTABLISHED | CONTRACT AWARDED
The City of Merritt’s Middlesboro Bridge on Voght Street was destroyed in the November 2021 Flood, brought on by an unprecedented atmospheric river, ultimately causing millions of dollars in public and private property damages throughout southwestern BC and into inland areas such as the Coquihalla Highway, Highway 8, and the Thompson-Nicola Regional District. In Merritt, the flood levels, exacerbated by a melting snowpack from the Coldwater headwaters, reached 2.5 times the previously predicted flood levels, destroying flood gauges and overcoming the diking system. The Coldwater River ultimately changed its course, undermining the Middlesboro Bridge and causing an irreparable collapse, leaving an enduring visible scar on the community.
The reparation of the bridge was beyond the capacity of this small community of over 7,000 people. After dealing with emergency operations and clean-up, the City began lobbying the provincial and federal governments for funding support. Thanks to $329,000 in funding from the Province of BC, the City was able to prepare a detailed Flood Mitigation Plan with conceptual engineering and cost estimates totaling over $167 million (presented March 2022; adopted November 2022). (The required funding amount is now updated to $109 million).
A detailed engineering proposal and cost estimate for the replacement of the Middlesboro Bridge was submitted in October 2022. In June 2023, the BC Ministry of Emergency Management & Climate Readiness approved $9,600,000 in funding to replace the Middlesboro Bridge on Voght Street.
The new bridge will be built to modern standards, at 1.5 meters higher than the original structure, capable of withstanding a one-in-200-year flood event and accommodating a 65% increase in water volume. The new bridge will also accommodate a more active transportation design, with a dedicated pedestrian and cyclist lane as well as two lanes of traffic.
The new double-lane bridge will also be a suspended single-span design (without a support pile or pier in the middle of the river) as it is more environmentally friendly, faster to build, and allows greater water flow in future water events. The original bridge had an undersized walkway and no cycling lane or shoulder.
“Recovering from a natural disaster is a long process of damage assessments, funding applications, design development and requests for proposals long before any construction can commence,” said Michael Goetz, mayor, City of Merritt. “While the City has been able to make a number of major repairs, seeing the scar of the missing Middlesboro Bridge has been a painful daily reminder of that harrowing event. I’d like to thank the Province for providing the funding to repair this important transportation link, which will not only ease transportation routes for our residents, but also revive our commercial corridors.”
Through the summer of 2023, the initial bridge design was completed and put out to contractors through the standard Request for Proposal (RFP) process. As of November 3, 2023, the design/build project has been awarded to Emil Anderson Construction with conceptual design drawings by Urban Systems. Detailed construction engineering is in process and the build is expected to start in 2024 with expected completion planned for the end of 2024 to early 2025.
The construction plan is detailed in the graphic below.
The Middlesboro Bridge reconstruction is one of several flood mitigation and restoration projects being funded by the Province for the City of Merritt, including rebuilding dikes and banks along the Coldwater River, road repairs, park restorations, water well restoration and a new running track.
About $12.2 million in Disaster Financial Assistance funding from the Province has already been approved for the City of Merritt since the floods of 2021, which were the most expensive natural disaster in B.C.’s history with catastrophic impacts to communities, the economy and critical infrastructure.
Additionally, the City of Merritt has been approved for more than $3.2 million from the Province’s Community Emergency Preparedness Fund for flood-mitigation planning and infrastructure projects.
Reinforcement of Other City Bridges
While the Main Street and Houston Street bridges were undamaged in the 2021 flood, engineers recommended shoring up the river banks and the bridge footings. Work on reinforcement occurred during summer 2023.