Resident says consultation lacking on Mira Gut bridge replacement
'I was surprised that we found out about something this important through social media'
A resident of Mira Gut, N.S., says she was surprised to learn through social media about the plan to replace a Cape Breton bridge that was torn down in 2017.
On Tuesday, she saw blueprints posted by a community member that were obtained through Access Nova Scotia.
"I think the community should have been brought in for a meeting, saying, 'This is what we were looking at.' Get our input," said resident Diana MacKinnon-Furlong, who is a past president of the Mira Gut Rural Development Association.
"I was surprised that we found out about something this important through social media."
The plan is to build a high-level single span truss bridge to replace the single truss swing bridge that was previously at the site. The 140-year-old former railway bridge was declared unsafe by the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal in the summer of 2017 and torn down in November of that year.
Construction of the replacement bridge is expected to begin next May and finish by November, with all in-water work taking place from June to September. It is expected to cost $10 million, pending approval of the design.
Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal spokesperson Marla MacInnis said the new bridge has been designed with "two lanes and a sidewalk and with a clearance high enough that the bridge will not need to open to accommodate marine traffic."
The bridge crossed the Mira River where it empties out into the Atlantic Ocean.
Without a bridge, Mira Bay Road has been impassable along the coast. Cars are rerouted along Hornes or Brickyard roads, an approximate 20-minute detour.
Transport Canada is seeking comments from the public on the proposed bridge until August 19.
MacKinnon-Furlong said she plans to organize a community meeting to discuss questions and concerns before the August deadline.
"We do not know how the bridge span is going to be affecting any surrounding properties," she said. "We don't know exactly where it's going to be going. We don't exactly know the plan."
Peter Hackett, the chief engineer for Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, said the department hired a consultant to do a boat survey last summer.
"We didn't consult the community as a whole, we just consulted the people that would be part of the marine community itself," he said.
That survey covered people who used the river for recreational and commercial boating.
The boat survey was meant to determine who uses the river and what size and type of boats are used.
Hackett said the consultants surveyed the coast guard, a local yacht club and the fishing community, and information from the survey was used to determine the size of the opening for the new bridge.
Possible design changes
Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal did a preliminary design based on the information gathered from the boat survey and sent it off to Transport Canada. The department is currently waiting to hear back from Transport Canada.
Hackett said once they hear back from Transport Canada, they might change the proposed design.
Before the department proceeds with a detailed design, Hackett said they will seek input from the local community.
"We'll take it to the public after that, for a public meeting or some consultations to say, 'Here's what we're looking at doing,'" he said.
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