Town of Clarenville to close traf­fic in­def­i­nitely on Shoal Har­bour bridge

Coun­cil makes de­ci­sion at Thurs­day morn­ing meet­ing

The Packet (Clarenville) - - Front page - Jonathan.par­sons@thep­ Twit­ter: @je­j­par­sons

The Town of Clarenville closed the traf­fic on Shoal Har­bour bridge March 29 un­til fur­ther no­tice after a re­port deemed the struc­ture likely needs re­place­ment.

After what was thought to be a reg­u­lar in­spec­tion by Merid­ian En­gi­neer­ing ear­lier in March, coun­cil learned the sit­u­a­tion was much more se­ri­ous than pre­vi­ously thought.

Clarenville Mayor Frazer Rus­sell called the news “a sur­prise.”

Merid­ian pre­sented their find­ings to the town prior to its March 27 coun­cil meet­ing.

“The con­di­tion of the bridge has been in­di­cated, in all as­pects of the re­port, whether it’s the abut­ments, gird­ers and gen­eral con­di­tion of the bridge, to be far worse than we had an­tic­i­pated and ob­vi­ously re­quires our coun­cil’s im­me­di­ate at­ten­tion,” said Rus­sell at the meet­ing.

All coun­cil­lors were at an im­promptu meet­ing re­gard­ing the bridge March 29, both in per­son and by tele­phone. Terra Nova MHA Colin Hol­loway was also there.

Town chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer David Har­ris pro­vided more in­for­ma­tion about the bridge at the meet­ing.

“Re­pair op­tions right now are still ques­tion­able to what re­pairs could be done — if any re­pairs can be done,” said Har­ris. He noted the Merid­ian Shoal Har­bour bridge.

En­gi­neer­ing re­port sug­gested re­pair op­tions would only be a short-term fix, that there was risk of fur­ther de­te­ri­o­ra­tion to the bridge.

Coun­cil there­fore con­cluded the bridge needs to be closed to traf­fic un­til the sit­u­a­tion could be fully as­sessed.

Har­ris has no­ti­fied the school board, RCMP and Fewer’s Am­bu­lance about the plan for route changes, but stressed there is no im­mi­nent danger on the bridge.

Signs and bar­ri­ers went up Thurs­day morn­ing, March 29.

The plan is to re­duce traf­fic to one lane at first, as many routes — like the school buses — are al­ready planned and need to go ahead to­day for the last day be­fore spring break.

Coun­cil passed two unan­i­mous mo­tions at the meet­ing.

The first was clo­sure of two lanes of traf­fic on the bridge, ef­fec­tive Thurs­day, March 29.

The sec­ond was to sub­mit an ap­pli­ca­tion to govern­ment for as­sis­tance — pos­si­bly emer­gency funds.

The mayor and CAO fig­ure if the bridge needs to be fully re­placed, the cost could be as high as $3.2 mil­lion.

Mayor and MHA say safety is num­ber one con­cern

In an in­ter­view with the Packet after the meet­ing, Rus­sell said coun­cil has never seen a shock ex­pense at this scale and level of ur­gency be­fore.

He says any pos­si­ble fund­ing to as­sist in this ex­pense would have to be cost-shared with govern­ment, un­less deemed “emer­gency fund­ing.”

Rus­sell says it might seem like a dras­tic mea­sure to close the bridge, but ul­ti­mately the safety of the pub­lic is para­mount.

“We’re not pre­pared to take any chances on that.”

Hol­loway told the Packet after the meet­ing he will help ex­plore all op­tions for the town on this mat­ter.

The MHA said since find­ing out about the is­sue over the past day or so, he’s al­ready briefed three dif­fer­ent pro­vin­cial de­part­ments: Trans­porta­tion and Works, Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs and En­vi­ron­ment and Fi­nance and Trea­sury Board — in ad­di­tion to the min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion and Early Child­hood Devel­op­ment re­gard­ing fu­ture bus route changes.

“Through the min­is­ter of Trans­porta­tion and Works, we’ve asked their en­gi­neer­ing team work with the town to re­con­firm the sit­u­a­tion … and then work with the town to come up with a range of op­tions,” said Hol­loway.

Both Rus­sell and Hol­loway say this is a com­plex is­sue which not only deals with a high-traf­fic area, but is also a nearby bird sanc­tu­ary and des­ig­nated salmon river.

Both Rus­sell and Hol­loway sug­gest the pos­si­bil­ity of a tem­po­rary “Bai­ley bridge” could be in the works.

Rus­sell says he would not ex­pect any work on a per­ma­nent re­place­ment to start un­til sum­mer 2019.

“It’s go­ing to be a ma­jor in­con­ve­nience to com­muters and pub­lic who use that sec­tion of road and we re­quire a com­plete un­der­stand­ing from these peo­ple.”

The Packet will have more in­for­ma­tion as it be­comes avail­able.


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