Town of Clarenville to close traffic indefinitely on Shoal Harbour bridge
Council makes decision at Thursday morning meeting
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.