HALIFAX: A Strait area MLA is calling on the provincial government to repair the only bridge to Isle Madame.

Cape Breton-Richmond MLA Alana Paon said she is concerned about increasing safety issues and delays in major renovations at the Lennox Passage Bridge.

Paon said in a press release that the bridge has been on the Provincial Capital Plan since 2012, but has never gone to tender and she is pressuring transportation minister Lloyd Hines on the matter.

“I am concerned about the safety of constituents using the Lennox Passage Bridge, especially in light of the accidents that recently occurred on the bridge,” the PC MLA noted. “I am also concerned about the bridge’s long-term viability, as it is the only means for island vehicular traffic to travel on and off of Isle Madame. I have been in discussions with the department since last summer, and continue to pressure minister Hines as to the urgency of this long overdue rehabilitation project.

“I have recently received verbal reassurance from the department that the project design is complete and that the call for tender is forthcoming. I am urging minister Hines to formally announce the project,” says Paon. “The longer the project is delayed, the more expense we incur as taxpayers to temporarily patch together long standing structural, mechanical and safety issues.”

On January 10, the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (DTIR) confirmed that the speed limit was reduced to 20 kilometres an hour (km/h) as a temporary measure to reduce the impact to the bridge until the joints were repaired.

The DTIR explained at the time that they noticed increased vibrations coming from one of the joints on the bridge platform which was attributed to “typical wear and tear on steel bridges.”

The department put the speed restriction in place and erected signs until repairs were complete. The DTIR later brought in a Variable Message Board to inform passing motorists to slow down since they were unable to put down cones due to high winds.

According to the press release issued by Paon last week, that signage was recently replaced with a semi-permanent sign that does not include flashing lights and can be difficult to see in fog or darkness.

The press release went on to detail that Donna Cavanagh was travelling on the bridge on April 27 when she was rear-ended by another motorist. Her husband, Warren Cavanagh, wants to prevent future accidents from happening.

“I don’t know what the structure needs to be, I’m not a structure engineer, but I do know the signs are placed too late,” Cavanaugh said in the press release. “They also need to enforce the speed limit. A non-enforceable speed limit of 20 km/h is not enough. I can’t do anything for Donna’s injuries, but if I can prevent future injuries or fatalities, I’m willing to fight all the way.”

Paon said in the release that she spoke with department officials on May 1 to request an immediate review of the placement of signs and flashing lights associated with the sudden reduction in the posted speed limit.

“Accident-preventing safety features should be in place right away to mitigate risk to motorists,” says Paon. “With increased pressure of provincial budgets not keeping pace with our aging infrastructure, local officials are struggling to stretch resources that do not meet our capital investment and maintenance requirements. I am calling on minister Hines to formally announce that the Lennox Passage Bridge project will be tendered and completed in 2018-19. We need immediate action. The rehabilitation of the Lennox Passage Bridge is six years overdue.”

DTIR spokesperson Marla MacInnis confirmed last Friday that the Lennox Passage Bridge has experienced ongoing issues with the joint of the lift span. MacInnis said temporary repairs have been completed on the lift deck, the speed limit was returned to the posted limit and speed reduction signs were removed.

“The bridge is safe for motorists and we will continue to monitor it closely until more permanent repairs can take place this construction season,” MacInnis said last week.

MacInnis added that the department expects to issue a tender this summer.

“Work will include repairs to the deck, steel work underneath the bridge, structural, concrete and mechanical repairs, and a replacement of the joints.”