A Graham Infrastructure LP bridge worker dangled over the Columbia River on Tuesday as the company went through evacuation procedures from its hi-line in the event of an emergency. Crews from Castlegar Search and Rescue and Kootenay Boundary Fire Rescue were on hand for the drills. The Columbia River Skywalk is moving to the stage where workers will be over the river while constructing the bridge deck.

Trail: Skywalk on budget, on schedule

Bridge workers are ready to rock and roll with heavy metal over the next few weeks.

Bridge workers are ready to “rock n roll” with heavy metal over the next few weeks.

“What’s happening right now is a lot of the steel for the floor beams and hangars is on site and coming in over the next couple of weeks,” explains city engineer Warren Proulx. “They are going to start assembling the bridge in between the two towers, starting later (Tuesday) after the safety exercise.”

Kootenay Boundary fire rescue and Castlegar Search and Rescue were on site with the iron workers from Graham Infrastructure LP. The groups were participating in a required emergency drill, should the hi-line malfunction or for any other reason, the bridge crew has to evacuate the work platform mid-stream.

“Graham decided to ask both these rescue operations to make them familiar with the hi-line operation and any difficulties performing a rescue if necessary,” Proulx added. “Basically, it is a practice, but an event they have to be prepared for.”

Over the next couple of weeks, crews will be lifting and lowering components into place, by hi-line, for the main span between the north and south tower. Steel floor beams will be installed perpendicular to the walkway, to hold and stabilize the structure.

As main cables were being strung across the river in advance of this next phase, the job focus has mostly been below surface and utility related.

“The last little while they’ve been concentrating on off-site services, putting in water and sewer lines,” explained Proulx.

The Second Avenue and McQuarrie Street intersection has been dug up a few times and blocked to traffic and pedestrians while workers hooked seven connections into the water system.

Inconvenient yes, but all in the name of progress, says Proulx.

Currently, West Trail and Tadanac rely on a sole conduit for water, a main water line hung on the Victoria Street Bridge.

After Violin Lake was shutdown as the main utility source to those neighbourhoods a number of years ago, water has come from the Sunningdale water tower or the water treatment plant near the Waneta Plaza and carried westerly over the river.

“If something was ever to happen it, we would lose water to West Trail and Tadanac,” explained Proulx. “So having a second crossing on the pedestrian bridge connects them to two mains on each side of the river and provides us with a back up source of water,” he added, “And it also improves a redundancy in our system. The way our system is designed, having this second line put in actually improves some of our safety fire hydrant flows and overall, our water system becomes much improved.”

Additionally, the Skywalk is secondary to the project’s main utilitarian role, which is to replace the regional sewer line now hanging on the Old Trail Bridge.

“All the piping is in place on land,” said Proulx. “It’s just the piping across the river which can’t be done until they get in all the steel beams and components, to support the pipes.”

Proulx confirmed the bridge project remains on budget and on schedule for its mid-December completion.

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