Flood-bashed bridge gives residents option of walking or taking very long detour

People who normally get to Lakeville Corner by driving across a thoroughfare are still out of luck two weeks after floodwaters began to recede. Vehicles are barred from the bridge.

Lakeville Corner residents who depend on a bridge to get to work haven't been able to use it since the flood

Mike Roy says a detour to get to work takes three hours. (CBC)

Residents who normally get to Lakeville Corner by driving across a thoroughfare are still out of luck two weeks after floodwaters began to recede.

Vehicles are barred from a bridge on Route 690 that was shoved off its northern bearings by floodwaters.

Residents of the central New Brunswick community are now forced to take a much longer route — involving a roundabout trip via Fredericton — to and from home. Some are walking across the bridge.

This bridgeon Route 690, about five miles northwest of Route 105, remains closed weeks after floodwaters receded in the area. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

"It's getting hard when you're working eight, nine, 10 hours a day, and then you're adding another three hours to your daily routine of trying to get to work, which normally takes 30 minutes to get to Oromocto," said Mike Roy, who leaves his car at one end of the bridge before walking across it.

The bridge, about five kilometres northwest of Route 105, goes over a thoroughfare linking French and Maquapit lakes.

In addition to shifting one end, flooding this spring broke parts of the bridge, whose two halves are known as Thoroughfare South and Thoroughfare North.

The Department of Transportation was out to inspect the bridge Tuesday.

The bridge is reported to have shifted off its bearings. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

"Even since last Thursday the water has been too high to check and we're worried that bridge on the north side of the structure has been pushed downstream," said Greg MacDonald, assistant director of the department's bridge maintenance unit.

"So, it's not sitting properly on its bearings, so we have to check that."

Last inspection

The bridge was last inspected in 2016 and received low scores on the bridge condition index, or BCI. The index is calculated by assessing and rating each individual component of the structure to determine its current value and scored out of 100.

"We're going to take a walk around to check this and we're going to put a boat in the water to even get a closer look," said MacDonald on Tuesday.

"The bridge has never been pushed downstream before."

According to the Department of Transportation, the index is one of many methods used to determine whether a bridge needs repairs, maintenance or replacement.

Thoroughfare North got a failing BCI of 46 and Thoroughfare South got 44. 

These two pieces of the bridge are supposed to be flush together. (CBC)

Jeremy Trevors, a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation, said it is still assessing all the roads and bridges  that could have been damaged when the St. John River system between Fredericton and Saint John flooded.

"We are hoping to restore traffic to the bridge in Lakeville Corner and our other assets as soon as possible," he said in an email statement. 

The initial plan was to evaluate about 135 bridges and culverts impacted by the flooding, the statement said.

"During our response, many other structures were evaluated prior to the roads being reopened." 

Taking a toll 

Residents in the Lakeville Corner area say the long detour is taking a toll on them.

Roy said he's had to leave a car on either side of the bridge to get home ever since nearby Grand Lake rose almost half a metre higher this year than it did in 1973.

"It's getting to be too much."

Debris and bowing and bending in the bridge are among the problems being assessed by the province. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

Roy said he can only wait to see what the province will decide to do after the inspection.

"[Keep] walking over until we can't walk over anymore," he said. "I'm sure once they decide what to do with the bridge I will have to make a different arrangement.

"Maybe I'll have to kayak across the water and still leave a car on each side."

With files from Catherine Harrop and Michael Corriveau