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New Sombrio Bridge ends ‘nastiest switchback’

Dec 09 2012
Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Ida Chong speaks at the opening of Sombrio Bridge No. 1 near Port Renfrew on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012. 

Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Ida Chong speaks at the opening of Sombrio Bridge No. 1 near Port Renfrew on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012.

Photograph by: Mike Fish , (December 2012)

A new bridge near Sombrio Beach will deep-six the “nastiest switchback in North America” when it opens Monday, says Capital Region director Mike Hicks.

“This is a tremendous, tremendous achievement for the people of south Vancouver Island,” said Hicks, CRD director for the Juan de Fuca electoral area.

“It’s a big day for Port Renfrew, Sooke, Juan de Fuca and Lake Cowichan.”

The $12.6-million project was part of provincial improvements worth at least $20 million and completes the Pacific Marine Circle Route linking Victoria, Port Renfrew and Duncan.

The two-lane, 124-metre concrete and steel Sombrio Bridge replaces the 55-year-old, single-lane timber bridge. It is on a new, straighter 1.2-kilometre alignment that replaces the Sombrio switchback, a curvy portion of road that police say is notorious for vehicle accidents.

A new viewpoint overlooking the Olympic Peninsula has been built 500 metres north of the bridge.

The new bridge will be safer for visitors and residents, including schoolchildren from the Pacheedaht First Nation who will use the bridge daily, Hicks said. It also provides an alternate route when the Malahat is closed because of accidents.

Hicks, who owns a fishing lodge, said residents hope the new route helps boost tourism in towns from Port Renfrew to Lake Cowichan as travellers take advantage of the circle route.

Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Ida Chong, who attended the bridge ceremony Saturday, drives the route regularly and said in a statement she knows “what a difference this is going to make in people’s lives” — whether they’re local residents or international visitors checking out the coast.

Nanaimo-based Windley Contracting (2010) Ltd. carried out the work, which also included the repair and resurfacing of 5.4 kilometres of Highway 14 east of Sombrio ending near Lines Creek.

Don Mann Excavating worked on the $1.2-million two-lane Upper Harris Bridge on Pacific Marine Road between Port Renfrew and Lake Cowichan replacing a one-lane structure. The new bridge improves water flow, fish passage and habitat with a wider opening at stream level, the Ministry of Transportation said.

The work completes about 22 kilometres of improvements to Highway 14 near Port Renfrew since 2009.

Previous work in the area includes:

• The Upper Harris Bridge on Pacific Marine Road north of Port Renfrew earlier this year.

• Improvements to the Baird and Murton bridges

• Resurfacing of 15 kilometres of Highway 14 from Port Renfrew to Sombrio.

• Replacement of the single-lane Sombrio No. 3 Bridge with a two-lane concrete structure and new alignment.

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