Mayor Laurie French holds the microphone as Yvette John

Bridge ‘long time coming’

After years of debate and planning the new Kawkawa Lake Bridge was officially opened on Friday morning.

A host of dignitaries and members of the public came out to celebrate the event, which took place on both the new and old bridge.

“This project has been on the books for quite a while as maintenance costs were rising and safety issues were more frequent, said Hope Mayor Laurie French. “It’s a project that has been on the desk of a lot of different mayors, it’s been long time coming.”

While final costs have not been calculated, French said the bridge will cost Hope taxpayers far less than the $3 million share originally discussed. The project was financed with both the federal and provincial governments with each party provided one-third of the funding.

The decision to build the bridge was a controversial one from the start.

“There are people who are attached to the old bridge, because of the movie First Blood,” said French.

The film that launched the Rambo series was filmed in Hope and the old bridge played a prominent role. But despite the sentimentality, a new bridge was needed.

The new structure is wider, allowing vehicles to pass by easier, and higher, reducing flood risks.

“It’s going to be a boon for development on the east side,” said French.

As part of the opening, both MLA Barry Penner, Chilliwack-Hope, and new MP Mark Strahl, Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon were on hand.

“On a day like this, I’m glad I’m not the environment minister anymore,” joked Penner about the downpour of rain which started just before the ceremony.

He told the crowd he was asked to “go to bat” for a new bridge about three years ago and was happy to see the project complete.

The new bridge is a concrete two lane structure with bike paths on either side of the roadway and a protected pedestrian crossover. Spanning the Coquihalla River, it is built to withstand 200 year flood levels and provides access to residences and businesses from Hope to the Othello Tunnel area.

Now that the new bridge is officially open, plans are in the works to take down the old bridge later this summer.