Hammond River covered bridge repairs will begin in 'immediate future'
'Overwhelming' public support for restoration instead of replacement, Transportation Minister Bill Fraser says
Repairs to the Hammond River No. 2 covered bridge in Quispamsis will begin "in the immediate future," following "overwhelming" public support for restoration, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Bill Fraser said on Friday.
Over the coming months, department staff will also undertake a review of all the covered bridges in New Brunswick and "work on a strategy for their stewardship to ensure communities and taxpayers are receiving the best return on their investments," he said in a statement.
The 104-year-old Hammond River covered bridge was damaged in October when an excavator conducting maintenance work on the decking crashed through because it was too heavy.
The government had been considering whether to repair the structure or replace it with a steel bridge, and sought input from area residents.
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Fraser announced the decision to repair the bridge in a tweet on Thursday night and released additional details in a statement on Friday.
He said design work will "soon begin" and department staff "will be commencing work on the repairs in the immediate future."
Repairs will include work to timber batter posts, floor beams, chord-bracing, and adjustment of the bridge's northeast portal, he said.
Eight months for repairs
The work is expected to take about eight months to complete and cost an estimated $1 million, government officials have previously said.
Replacing the covered bridge with a steel bridge would have cost about the same, but could have been done faster, taking only about three months.
As these bridges become compromised by age, wear and tear, and carrying loads heavier than they were designed for, the government will be challenged with more decisions like this in the future.- Bill Fraser, transportation minister
A modern structure would have also been able to support truck traffic and not be subject to weight restrictions, said Fraser.
But residents were presented with both options during a public meeting last month and given one week to complete a feedback form, indicating their preferred option.
"There was overwhelming support for restoring the covered bridge," said Fraser, who reviewed the submissions with Hampton MLA Gary Crossman on Dec. 6.
There are 58 covered bridges left in the province, which support community access, serve as heritage sites and provide opportunities for tourism, according to the statement.
"As these bridges become compromised by age, wear and tear, and carrying loads heavier than they were designed for, the government will be challenged with more decisions like this in the future," said Fraser.
The Hammond River No. 2 bridge, which is on Route 860 at the end of French Village Road, was built in 1912.
The bridge has a posted weight limit of 12 tonnes, but on Oct. 5, a contractor hired by the Transportation Department to conduct repairs drove a 13-tonne excavator loaded with lumber across it.
The excavator crashed through and remained suspended between the bridge and embankment below for several days before it could be safely removed.