Two months before the Department of Transportation and Works banned heavy traffic from the Placentia lift bridge because of structural fears, government officials were examining extending the lifespan of the existing bridge by another 25 years.
Transportation Minister Tom Hedderson says the province signalled its intent to look at all options for the Placentia bridge last August, after rejecting the sole bid to build a new one.
The total cost for a replacement structure came in at $43.3 million, or nearly double previous government estimates.
That, says Hedderson, put all options on the table, including a review of the existing bridge’s future viability.
"And if we were to rehabilitate the existing bridge, naturally it wouldn’t be just for a couple of years, we would look well into the future to see if it was worthwhile," Hedderson told CBC News. "Henceforth, a quarter of a century."
That possibility is now off the table, according to the minister. A new bridge will be built, after temporary repairs are made to the current structure.
"This project is moving along, and obviously the people of Placentia, I hope, are looking at this as an interim measure, because, again, the bridge is where we need to be, the new bridge."
Markham, Ont.,-based Delcan was the consulting firm hired by the province last fall to inspect and assess repair options for the half-century-old Placentia link.
"Rehabilitating the existing bridge is an extensive undertaking, requiring significant rebuilding of superstructure components, and strengthening of the substructure, in order to enable the bridge to remain in service for the next 25 years," Delcan noted in a report delivered to the government on Dec. 22, 2011.
"Additionally, given the risk associated with strengthening of the substructure necessary to the repair and rebuild option, and the high cost of this rehabilitation in relation to building a new structure, it is recommended that the entire structure be replaced with a new bridge."
CBC News obtained the company’s report to the province under provincial access-to-information laws.
Delcan provided short-, medium-, and long-term cost estimates of repairs to the current structure, but those were blacked out in documents provided to CBC.
In late February, just two months after receiving the report, the department announced that it was restricting heavy traffic from the bridge. The move came in the wake of concerns raised by a follow-up structural evaluation.
Since then, commercial vehicles weighing more than 13,000 kilograms have been barred from crossing.
Earlier this month, the province awarded a $1.7 million contract to carry out short-term repairs to the bridge.
Hedderson says that work is expected to be completed by the end of June.
The government is also planning a tender call for the bridge’s ultimate replacement.
Previously, the province has cautioned residents they may have to wait four years for the new structure to be completed.