The Hammond River covered bridge at Smithtown could reopen to traffic in three to four weeks according to the province's Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Bill Fraser says that's what he's been told by department engineers who have started working to reinforce the 103-year-old bridge.

bill fraser

Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Minister, Bill Fraser says his engineers predict work will be completed on the Hammond River covered bridge at Smithtown in three to four weeks. (Brian Chisholm, CBC)

"The pilings have been driven for the bent installation and that [installation work]

will take place over the next few weeks," said Fraser. "Once that's done it's expected the bridge should be reopened to traffic the same as it was prior to it having to be closed."

The Smithtown bridge has been blocked to all traffic since June 19 when an inspection revealed structural damage believed to have been caused by a vehicle.

The closure has been a major disruption for many people living on the south side of the Hammond River, many of whom have found themselves cut off from jobs, shopping and appointments in nearby Hampton.

On the Brawley Road, Louis McLellan said the trip is costing him a lot more time, and money for gas.

"For me to be running around an extra 40 kilometres, there and back, it's costly," said McLellan. "They should have, as far as I'm concerned, 100 men down there until that bridge is fixed."

Neighbour Rita Lake worries about emergency services. Much of the Brawley road lies in territory normally covered by the Hampton Fire Department.

That responsibility has been turned over to the Kennebecasis Fire Department until the bridge reopens.

Bridge open soon

Lake said she was pleased to hear that could happen by mid-August.

"It's longer, everything's longer. We need our bridge fixed," said Lake.

"People have told us before that they were thinking like 2019, there's a lot of word around Hampton, 2019. Now August? We can live with August."

The closure of the bridge has riled many residents who suspect structural damage this spring were caused by overweight government dump trucks.

They should have, as far as I'm concerned, a hundred men down there until that bridge is fixed. - Louis McLellan

It was later confirmed by Fraser that Department of Transportation dump trucks carrying crushed rock had repeatedly used the bridge en route to nearby road work.

The practice violates restrictions on the bridge which is rated for 12 tonnes, roughly the weight of an empty tandem dump truck of the type used by DTI.

Fraser would not speculate on whether the dump trucks caused the structural issues.

He said the department now has a "clear policy" that its trucks will follow weight rules, although exceptions can be made in cases where there is a good reason.

The minister said he is to be informed in such cases.

The next bridge downstream, Hammond River No. 2, is also closed to all traffic.

That bridge, at the end of French Village Road, has been blocked off since October 2016 after an overweight excavator doing work for Fraser's department crashed through the deck.

Repairs will cost an estimated $1 million.