BROOK VILLAGE: An unexpected closure to a bridge connecting communities along Route 252 in Inverness County has local community members demanding answers.
On very short notice, the Province of Nova Scotia announced after realizing repairs would be more widespread that first anticipated, they would be closing the small bridge.
Rankin MacEachen who lives along Route 252 and uses the Frizzle’s Bridge numerous times a week, said the news was sudden, people are concerned and they’re frustrated.
“We still aren’t quite certain about what’s taking place, or what the timelines are, it’s a multitude of questions,” MacEachen told The Reporter. “When I first found out the bridge was closing, I was under the understanding, and pretty much everyone else in the area that it was going to be down to one lane, with lights set up.”
A community meeting will be held on July 29 discussing the lack of communication, transparency, and accountability surrounding the Frizzles Bridge repairs, and subsequent closure.
MacEachen said the feeling of residents is that there is a lack of concern for them, and for those visiting as they face many challenges with the road closure and posted detours.
“Then the rumour starts spreading around that the bridge was going to be closed,” MacEachen said. “To be honest, I kind of laughed at the idea, the 252 is a busy highway.”
He said it’s a key piece of infrastructure to the communities of Whycocomagh and Mabou, and is the main route connecting Highway 105 and Route 19.
As a community, MacEachen said their concerns are not being taken seriously, their safety, and the safety of all who travel the roads in the area, is at risk, and the lack of responses from government officials on the issue are of grave concern.
A spokesperson with the Department of Transportation and Active Transit indicated original plans were to reduce the bridge to one lane, but upon further inspection, more repairs were needed than initially expected and the bridge is expected to be close six to eight weeks.
MacEachen advised at least they needed a resolution to allow access to the grocery store in Brook Village.
“I put in a request for a pedestrian foot bridge, and you know what, the Department of Transportation really came through on that,” he said. “There’s a lot of good, hardworking, people on the Department of Transportation, and the foot bridge is really helping people.”
The department responded that it currently has a project supervisor with concrete expertise, additional staff were brought from outside the region to work on site, and they will be working overtime to get the work completed quickly.
But when it came to being able to talk to a politician, it was basically impossible, with no Minister of Transportation and local representation out on the campaign trail, MacEachen noted.
“I didn’t know that, and it sort of surprised me, when an election is on, your ministers aren’t technically the ministers anymore,” MacEachen said. “They put me in contact with a department engineer, and he was able to answer a lot of my questions.”
Department of Transportation crews will be replacing the bridge’s deck, girders and rail, as well as completing major concrete work, and a temporary detour has been established though Lake Ainslie Chapel Road to West Lake Ainslie Road.
“The detour is also such a big issue,” MacEachen said “The detour has bridges on it, that’s on a narrow dirt road and hasn’t always been maintained the best.”
For MacEachen, the detour would double the kilometres and would add an additional 25 minutes to travel it on top of what it would normally take.
Inverness PC candidate Allan MacMaster said in a post to his Facebook page July 26, from the time he became aware of the closure on July 17, he has asked for a temporary bridge to be installed to allow Route 252 to remain open.
“Based on a conversation with transportation this morning, they continue to feel a temporary bridge structure would take five to six weeks to install,” MacMaster said. “They feel the project to fix the permanent bridge will take five weeks. For this reason they do not intend to install a temporary bridge.”
Unfortunately, the MLA said department staff’s hands are tied by their budget, and only the Minister of Transportation, Lloyd Hines, has the authority to order a temporary bridge to be installed.
“So far, (he) has not seen fit to do so,” MacMaster said.
MacEachen indicated the chiefs of the local volunteer fire departments in Mabou and Whycocomagh weren’t informed of this decision and they had to work together to create a plan for the approximately 300 mutual aid calls that now have to be responded to by secondary crews.
“The whole point of it for everybody is we want answers to our questions that nobody could get,” he said. “There’s been a lack of communication; there’s been a lack of transparency, and no accountability.”
A petition has been started by local residents and have garnered 665 signatures calling for 24 hour a day work to repair the bridge in three weeks, along with a bailey bridge secure enough to enable deliveries, and for fire and ambulance services if needed.