New Brunswick

No plans for removing decaying Jemseg Bridge anytime soon

The Jemseg Bridge is a crumbling behemoth, with a rebar skeleton starting to show as large chunks of concrete fall to the ground. 

Inspectors recommended in 2013 that poorly maintained bridge be closed and demolished

For years, the Jemseg Bridge has been left to degrade without a clear idea from the province when it will be removed. (Shane Fowler/CBC News)

The Jemseg Bridge is a crumbling behemoth, with a rebar skeleton starting to show as chunks of concrete fall off.

And the province has no plans, or money, to bring down the abandoned 650-metre structure anytime soon. 

"We're not going to do that this year," said Jill Green, minister of transportation and infrastructure in the Progressive Conservative government. "That bridge is still safe." 

By "safe," Green means the bridge isn't likely to collapse unexpectedly. 

"It's not going to topple over," she said.

Jill Green, minister of transportation and infrastructure, says the province would rather spend available money on higher-priority bridges. (Shane Fowler/CBC News)

The bridge structure still undergoes regular inspections.

Nets have been installed on portions of its underside to prevent debris from falling down into the waterways and roadway below. 

Since its sudden closure more than five-years-ago, the bridge about 60 kilometres east of Fredericton has been left hanging over the Jemseg River with no solid plans for its demise.

Exposed rebar and crumbling concrete are common sights on the piers of the bridge over the Jemseg River, about 60 kilometres east of Fredericton. (Shane Fowler/CBC News)

What is known is the massive price tag also hanging over the project. It would cost $10 million to $15 million to bring the bridge down, Green said.

"It's significant," she said. "We'd rather spend that on other bridges that are in our priority network."

Although the Jemseg Bridge only went up in 1960, it was already in bad shape in 2013, after upkeep was neglected, according to inspection reports. (Shane Fowler/CBC News)

Just 53 years after it was built along what was then the Trans-Canada Highway, the Jemseg Bridge was first recommended for closure and decommission back in October 2013 after an inspection commissioned by the province.

It remained open, but a followup inspection was done in May 2015. 

The bridge was closed the very next day.

WATCH / The forlorn Jemseg Bridge east of Fredericton hasn't seen a car in years:

Jemseg Bridge towers over the Jemseg River years after being closed for safety reasons.

2 years ago
Duration 2:28
A government inspection seven years ago recommended closing and demolishing the Jemseg Bridge, yet it still stands.

A report described how water leaking through joints on the bridge deck had caused "wide cracking, spalling and disintegration" of the concrete below. 

The bearings that allowed the bridge to withstand freeze-thaw cycles had "fallen out of … position and to the ground." 

The underside of the Jemseg Bridge is missing portions of concrete, exposing the rebar inside. (Ed Hunter/CBC News)

Water issues that had been ignored caused several of the beams that hold up the bridge to "have significant deterioration on their bottom due to water leaking from the disconnected/broken deck drain pipes." 

Previous issues with the bridge had been noted in reports in 2001, 2006, and 2008. 

A bridge built just upriver along the new Trans-Canada highway had led to a decrease in traffic over the old bridge, according to inspection reports. When traffic on the bridge diminished, so did regular upkeep. Little or no maintenance was completed.

The previous Liberal government estimated it would cost $3 million to repair the Jemseg Bridge but instead opted to decommission it, removing its ramps and closing it permanently. 

Chunks of concrete can be found scattered underneath the Jemseg Bridge (Shane Fowler/CBC News )


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