The town council in Port Hawkesbury, Cape Breton, wants the provincial and federal governments to investigate the safety of the Grand Narrows Bridge.

Coun. Joe Janega, who is also a structural engineer with 35 years' experience, took his concerns to Mayor Billy Joe MacLean and council following a visual inspection of the rail line earlier this year.

'I am not an alarmist, believe me, I am not. Are we just waiting for something bad to happen?' - Joe Janega, councillor and structural engineer

The council asked the federal and provincial transportation ministers for an independent assessment of the bridges and tracks on Monday.

Janega said he was alarmed by what he found, especially at the rail bridge in Grand Narrows.

“The abutments are severely cracked. You know their age is very evident. There's no doubt that there's potential of corrosion of the reinforcement under the concrete. So that would be one concern. The other thing is the condition of the steel. There's been very, very little done,” he said.

“I am not an alarmist, believe me, I am not. Are we just waiting for something to happen?"

The Grand Narrows rail bridge is the longest in the province and was completed in 1890.

Officials with the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway say any deterioration found on the line is cosmetic.

However, Janega and other local politicians are not buying those assurances.  

“I don’t know what he’s talking about. When I see web stiffeners — very important pieces of the structure that are totally corroded off, or I could put my hand into the abutments of the structure, or the severe corrosion of the steel — there’s no steel left in some cases,” he said.  

In a meeting last January, rail line officials promised to provide information on what products the rail cars are carrying. Janega said he still hasn't heard back about that.