Virden and area have been waiting six years for the announcement that came on Tuesday, Sept. 29. A crowd gathered on site at the barricaded PR 257 Virden bridge over Gopher Creek, where MLA for the area Greg Nesbit brought the official news: “Today I’m pleased to announce that our government will be replacing this bridge with a structure that spans the Gopher Creek, in the 2021 fiscal year, at an estimated cost of $2.3 million.”
The cost will be finalized once the project is tendered. “Engineering and design is underway and following tender, it is hoped the project will begin next year,” Nesbit said.
The bridge providing the first direct access to Virden for westbound TransCanada traffic was declared unfit following the spring flood in 2014.
Tuesday’s announcement saw some 40 people from Virden and surrounding municipalities of Wallace-Woodworth and Sifton on hand to receive the news of the PR 257 bridge which will reduce congestion on the only other access and link to Virden’s east crossing of the mainline CP rail that bisects the town.
It means a direct route to the RM of Wallace-Woodworth southwest of Virden and to the municipal office. Reeve Clayton Canart said, “It’s something we’ve worked on in collaboration with the Town of Virden, since 2014.” He thanked the Manitoba government and infrastructure minister Ron Schuler for investing in Virden area.
Mayor Murray Wrightacknowledged previous councils and mayors for their work in keeping this issue at the forefront and said, “This bridge will allow for more direct access to the Lions Campground and that’s something that’s very important for Virden.” He added, “I hope that this time next year we will be standing here with a new bridge.”
Fire Chief Brad Yochim said, “We are extremely happy that this bridge is going to be opened up again. We used this route, up until the bridge closed, almost exclusively to respond to anything in the east part of our municipality. Since [the bridge closure] we’ve been using King St. which everyone knows, is extremely busy. It slows down our response time and always increases our risk of a possible accident.” He said saving even three or four minutes can make a difference in emergencies.
Chamber president, Carla McLean thanked the government saying, “We have had a lot of traffic on our King St. and it’s important for all of our infrastructure to be repaired so we have access to the major arteries of the town and to surrounding communities.”
Since running for office in the newly enlarged constituency of Riding Mountain, Nesbitt had been flooded with requests for this bridge replacement: “I promised that if I was elected, I would continue the work of my predecessor Doyle Piwniuk to ensure this bridge would be replaced. He also stated that while paving on King St. has been approved, it will be 2021 before the contractor can complete that work on Virden’s main artery.