Elmsville – The McGuire Covered Bridge in Elmsville will be repaired, and is expected to be re-opened by next spring.
Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Bill Fraser said the decision to save and repair the bridge was made following receipt of a report from an independent engineering consulting firm which detailed recommendations on how to repair the bridge, and restore the transportation link in the community.
Fraser said the ball park estimate on repair costs is between $200,000 and $300,000, adding “but that’s just an estimate, and that could change.”
Work to be done, said Fraser, will involve the installation of a steel structure under the bridge to support all of the floor beams, raising the bridge to prevent damage from ice flows, the installation of proper portal sway frames in order to maintain the squareness of the bridge, and replacing any of the deteriorated wood or steel members.
“We’re putting the resources in to get it done because it’s an important link, and we understand the importance of the bridge to the community,” stated Fraser.
The minister said work is expected to begin once his department receives the design work, within the next couple of weeks, and noted the department is aware of the inconvenience to the community the continued bridge closure will cause until the work is completed.
Fraser said he’s asked his department to reach out to Canada Post to see if it will install a mailbox on the other side of the bridge from the one currently in place, to provide closer mail delivery to area residents who now must make a significant detour to pick up their mail.
Fraser said the bridge, which was built in 1913, was created for the traffic of the day which was horse and buggy – not today’s traffic of assorted cars and trucks.
He also noted that while the McGuire Bridge is not a designated historical property, that designation would not have saved it from demolition had it been in the best interest for public safety.
“Our number one priority is the safety of the people who travel on these structures, and the public,” said Fraser who added the second priority of his department is to provide transportation links for people to get to and from work, medical appointments, and taking goods to market.
But the historical significance of covered bridges is recognized by DTI, and the government said Fraser.
He said the province has 3,200 structures, 60 of which are covered bridges. Fraser said the covered bridges are unique, and believes New Brunswick has the most of any province.
Fraser noted the demise of the covered bridge in Hammond River, saying before the decision was made to take out the bridge, the community was consulted, and the decision made on the option which would restore the transportation link by building a new bridge.
He said the Hammond River bridge suffered from significant structural deterioration and damage, which would have taken up to two years to replace and restore.
“So we had to make a difficult choice then. Those aren’t easy decisions to make, but they are made in consultation with the community.
“In terms of the McGuire Bridge in Elmsville, the report recommends we can restore it, so that’s what we’re going to do.”
Fraser said the money for the work on the bridge will be found in his department’s budget.
Saying , “We have to invest in these types of things”, Fraser criticized the previous Conservative government, and its former finance minister Blaine Higgs, now the Conservative leader.
He said Higgs criticizes him every day in the Legislature saying his department spends too much money – money the province can’t afford.
“I beg to differ,” stated Fraser. “The money we’re spending is strategic money. It’s strategic infrastructure that is required and needed.”
Fraser said he’d even go as far to say part of the reason the province is in the shape it’s in with bridges and roadways is because when Higgs was finance minister for four years, the budget for DTI “was cut and slashed.”
“We’re trying to catch up, trying to restore the funding that was taken away for four years, to do the maintenance that was required on all these bridges.”