Nova Scotia can no longer afford to maintain all of its bridges, with transportation officials suggesting in a legislative committee Wednesday that hundreds might have to be abandoned.

Right now the provincial government maintains 90 per cent of the bridges in Nova Scotia. There are about 4,300 provincially-owned bridges across Nova Scotia and half are older than 50 years.

There are 67 bridges on abandoned Nova Scotia roads. There are 74 bridges which could be closed where the detours would be less than five kilometres.

Bruce Fitzner, the chief engineer for the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, said there are several hundred bridges which would be considered for closure when it becomes too expensive to maintain them. Closing those bridges, while an inconvenience to users, wouldn't be too big a deal, he suggested. 

"Back in the horse and buggy days in the last century, it was significant," he said. "In a modern automobile it's not significant."

He said the decision on whether to close a bridge would be done in consultation with the communities they serve.

Chris D'Entremont, the PC MLA for Argyle-Barrington, said for some residents a bridge is a vital economic link.

"I don't know how you'd convince a community to lose an important piece of infrastructure or road infrastructure," he said. 

"If you're going to take out those important pieces of infrastructure those communities will actually crumple and die."

The plan is to close bridges one at a time once repair costs outweigh the value of keeping the bridge.