D’ESCOUSSE: A local yacht club is expressing its concern with the inability of a lift bridge to open for boaters.
Lennox Passage Yacht Club commodore Teddy Poirier said he was told by Cape Breton-Richmond MLA Alana Paon that the Lennox Passage Lift Bridge will not be open for the start of the boating season.
“I knew they had worked on it and I thought maybe the work they were doing on it was to repair it so it would open, but apparently, they welded it shut,” Poirier said.
Without any tenders coming out from the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (DTIR), Poirier said it’s hard to see how any work will be started and finished on time.
“From what I understand, the money is there to fix it but they just didn’t put the tenders out,” Poirier said. “Boating season, you got a month until it starts and the sail boats won’t be able to get through.”
Poirier said he received calls last December from boaters in the United States and New Brunswick curious about the state of the bridge and whether it will be ready for boats this year.
Aside from his group, Poirier said local businesses and other groups like the St. Peter’s Marina will also suffer if boats are unable to pass through the only link to Isle Madame.
“We’re probably not going to get as many transient boaters as we normally get so you’re looking at a little bit of financial problems for us,” Poirier explained. “Not only us, but you’re looking at the Groundswell, they have new owners that just took it over and they get a lot of people who go up there for breakfast, dinner, or just for entertainment.
“A lot of the boaters who come here, we run them into Arichat for the Co-op or liquor store and it’s going to impact all around.”
DTIR spokesperson Marla MacInnis responded that the bridge has experienced ongoing issues with the lift span. Temporary repairs have been completed on the lift deck, she said, but the bridge will not be able to accommodate all marine traffic until more permanent repairs take place this construction season.
“Smaller sailboats and fishing boats will still be able to pass under the bridge,” MacInnis said. “The bridge has an 18 foot clearance capacity at high tide and a 24 foot clearance capacity at low tide.”
While maintaining that the bridge remains safe for motorists, MacInnis added that the DTIR plans to issue a tender soon and conduct work this summer.
“Work will take place to the bridge this summer and will include repairs to the deck, steel work underneath the bridge, structural, concrete and mechanical repairs, and a replacement of the joints,” MacInnis explained. “A tender will be issued shortly.”
On January 10, the DTIR confirmed that the speed limit on the bridge was reduced to 20 kilometres an hour 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 a 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 a press release issued by Paon earlier this month, that signage was replaced with a semi-permanent sign that did 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 during bad weather on April 27 when she was rear-ended by another motorist.
Paon said 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. She then called on transportation minister Lloyd Hines to formally announce that the bridge project will be tendered and completed in 2018-19.