New Brunswick

Much-photographed St. Martins covered bridge fails inspection

One of two covered bridges at St. Martins has failed inspection, but unlike two other unsafe covered bridges in southern New Brunswick, this one won't be closed.

Bill Fraser, whose department looks after covered bridges, suggests this crossing may be better on foot

Infrastructure Minister Bill Fraser, visiting the Vaughan Creek Bridge in St. Martins on Tuesday, said a lower weight limit will force bus passengers to walk across the bridge, giving them a chance to explore the scene. (Connell Smith/CBC)

Another of New Brunswick's covered bridges has failed inspection.

Vaughan Creek Bridge in St. Martins is a much-photographed site in the village harbour and a key link to the popular sea caves and Fundy Parkway.

It will give them a chance to take some pictures.- Bill Fraser, infrastructure and transportation minister

Bill Fraser, the transportation and infrastructure minister, says the bridge will remain open but will now carry a weight restriction of 18 tonnes.

On Tuesday, tour coaches unloaded passengers before crossing. The passengers, who were on cruise ship excursions, crossed the bridge on foot before getting back on the buses.

"We're going to make it part of the experience," Fraser said. "It will give them an opportunity to explore the wharf and the tourism centre and it will give them a chance to take some pictures."

Fraser said supports will be added to the bridge and a second, modular bridge will be installed next to it in case a "worst case scenario" develops. 

60 bridges in province

The Vaughan Creek Bridge at St. Martins will stay open after failing a recent inspection. (CBC)

The two bridges in St. Martins aren't as old as many of New Brunswick's covered bridges. Vaughan Creek was built in 1935, and Hardscrabble Bridge No. 2  in 1946.

The Infrastructure Department has the job of maintaining 56 of the 60 covered bridges in the province, according to the government's website.

But in the past nine months, Fraser's department has been linked to weight violations at two of the bridges, both in Kings County, including one that collapsed and another that simply became unsafe to cross.

Repair work started on the Smithtown bridge, called Hammond River Bridge No. 3, after it recently failed inspection.

Structural supports are now being added, and Fraser said the bridge near Hampton should be open to traffic again in four to five weeks.

Dump trucks broke rules

Last Thursday, he admitted that overweight department dump trucks used the bridge at Smithtown to carry crushed rock for road repairs this spring.

Fraser would not speculate on whether the weight violations caused the structural damage identified during an inspection.

But he said the department now has a "clear policy" that its trucks will follow weight rules. Exceptions will be made only in cases where he is informed and there is a good reason, Fraser said.

The Hammond River Bridge No. 2, at the end of French Village Road, has been closed since early last October because an overweight excavator doing work for Fraser's department crashed through the deck.

Repairs will cost an estimated $1 million. 

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