New Brunswick’s transportation minister said the partial collapse of the Lorneville Creek causeway caught his department by surprise, despite it being flagged for repairs seven years ago but never fixed.
On Friday, the causeway remained impassable with a two-metre deep hole in the southbound lane. Pieces of the metal culvert that caused the road failure sat crumpled nearby on the Lorenville mudflats.
Its failure was unforeseeable, according to Transportation Minister Claude Williams
"We're dealing with Mother Nature and we do regular inspections, but again we cannot control or evaluate or predict the magnitude or the force or the damage that happens when we deal with those situations,” he said.
The culvert gave way last week and Williams blames a storm and tidal surge for triggering the damage.
But locals like Lorneville Lobster Shop owner Karen McCavour said the province can't credibly claim to be surprised by what happened.
"They knew the road was getting bad. The dip in the culvert has been known since June. Everybody's been talking about it. Pieces of the culvert are out in the mud flats and they were warned last week with the high tides coming it was going to undermine and sure enough it undermined,” she said.
The province has almost 300 bridges listed in poor condition, and the auditor general flagged the Lorneville Creek causeway as one of the worst. It scored only one point on the 100 point bridge rating system. A 60 is considered poor.
That put Lorneville’s bridge on the province's priority list for repairs seven years ago, but nothing happened.
Saint John council not warned
"This is stuff that needs to get taken care of,” said Saint John Coun. Greg Norton, who represents the Lorneville area.
He said the city was never told how bad the province's inspection reports had become.
"I would suggest the more eyes on that information and the more people who have access to that information the better we are equipped to take care of things like this,” he said.
“As a result, we don't have an inconvenience like this where we have jersey barriers preventing people from crossing a bridge.”
The province said it's unsure if the causeway can be fixed this winter so it might have to wait until spring
Residents will have to use the back roads until it can be repaired