New Brunswick

Covered bridge across Hammond River to be replaced with modular one

A 104-year-old covered bridge over the Hammond River will be taken down and replaced by a modular bridge, the government announced Friday.

Construction will start soon on new bridge, which local residents requested, minister says

Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Bill Fraser says residents in the French Village area would rather get a new bridge than save the old one. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

A 104-year-old covered bridge over the Hammond River will be taken down and replaced by a modular bridge, the government announced Friday.

Work on the new bridge near French Village in southern New Brunswick will start soon, and the link should be open to traffic in January 2018, a news release said.

In late July, community members learned that the covered bridge, severely damaged by an excavator doing work on the deck, was in worse shape than the government expected.

In talking to residents, it became quite clear that restoring this transportation link took priority over preserving the covered bridge.- Bill Fraser, transportion minister

​Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Bill Fraser said he would let people know this week what would be done about the bridge.

At the time, some residents urged him to try to save it, and an engineer argued it could be fixed.  

The decision to get rid of the old Hammond River Bridge No. 2 was difficult, Fraser said, but this is what residents in the area wanted.

"In talking to residents, it became quite clear that restoring this transportation link took priority over preserving the covered bridge," he said in a statement.

The bridge has been closed to traffic since an excavator violating weight restrictions fell through the floorboard.   

Repair work uncovered significant wood rot after steel was removed from the bottom of the bridge structure. The structural integrity of the bridge was no longer safe, the government said.

The Hammond River No. 2 covered bridge was damaged when an excavator went through the decking on Oct. 5, 2016. Rotten wood was found during recent repair work. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

The province said it had two options for installing the modular bridge.

It could set one up next to the existing covered bridge or place the modular bridge on the "existing seats" of the covered bridge. The province chose the later, which was also the residents' choice, Fraser said.

The province said it was premature to assign a cost to the project, "as the work will only start in the coming days," Jeff Hull, spokesperson for the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, said in an email.

"We will have a better idea of final costs at the end of the project in January 2018," he said.

"What is important today is that the provincial government will restore a vital transportation link across the Hammond River at French Village."

It will also work with the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture and the local community to commemorate the covered bridge, which was built in 1913.

"The mandate of the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure is to provide safe, reliable transportation links to the travelling public," said Fraser.

"That said, we also recognize the cultural importance of covered bridges as heritage icons."

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