A new two lane concrete bridge across the Medicine River on Range Road 30 south of Benalto has just opened. It replaces an old single lane steel truss bridge. The story of this bridge may tell Sylvan Lake residents what they can expect on the highway intersection south of town.
One of the first local political meetings I attended about 35 years ago was to complain about that single lane bridge across the Medicine River. Even then it was too small to accommodate most farm equipment and larger grain trucks.
Readers may be interested in the amount of agricultural commodities that come out of that 15 mile circle around Benalto. Before they were destroyed, the Benalto elevators shipped about 19,000 metric tonnes of grain to export position by rail each year. All that grain had to come into Benalto by truck and most of it had to bypass that old bridge. About half of that grain was barley. That was enough to make about 175 million bottles of beer every year. The nearby elevators at Sylvan Lake and Eckville shipped even more, and the elevators at Bentley, Rimbey, and Leslieville were not far behind.
At the time one farmer remarked “when you consider the billions of dollars of oil, cattle, and grain that goes down that road, it is pathetic Edmonton can’t even upgrade one bridge for us.”
So over 35 years it would be fair to say that several billion dollars of local production has been made less economic because Edmonton could not do arithmetic on the Medicine River Bridge.
35 years later we finally have a new bridge. It is big enough for two cars, but I would hate to have to move a larger piece of farm equipment across it.
Perhaps we can take up a collection and send Edmonton a tape measure, and wait another 35 years. However if the Benalto experience is anything to go by, Sylvan Lake residents who expect prompt action from Edmonton on their traffic concerns may need to be very patient.