County councillor wants Sand River structure replaced
UPPER NAPPAN - An accident in which an Amherst firefighter was seriously injured should be a wake-up call for the province about the condition of several bridges along the Shulie Road, say local politicians.
Less than a week after Gregg LeBlanc lost control of his motorcycle on the one-lane bridge at Sand River, Cumberland municipal council is asking the Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Department to assess the bridges as soon as possible.
"We've asked them before to replace that bridge and it was filed somewhere without ever being acted upon," area councillor Ratchford Merriam said following Wednesday's July council session.
Merriam said the county sent letters to former ministers Angus MacIsaac and Murray Scott requesting action on the bridge at Sand River as well as at Apple River and Shulie.
In its letter to the province, the county is also asking for repairs to a bridge on the Barronsfield Road near River Hebert, and the Athol River Bridge.
Merriam said a motorcyclist reported problems with the bridge at Sand River three weeks ago to a campground operator in Spencer's Island, who in turn called the Department of Transportation.
"It was two weeks later that this accident happened," Merriam said.
"There's not even a sign saying there's loose decking on the bridge or missing decking. There has to be more warning."
Warden Keith Hunter is optimistic the department will address the issue, adding it has been responsive to its concerns in recent years.
LeBlanc remains in hospital in Halifax after he lost control of his motorcycle on the bridge. RCMP believe a tire became wedged in a gap in the wooden decking and LeBlanc was either thrown into the bridge's steel siding or crashed his motorcycle into it.
LeBlanc broke his pelvis, arm and two vertebrae while a third is pinching on his spinal column.
Former county councillor Ruth Allen is familiar with the bridge since the original structure was destroyed by fire in the 1980s. Allen said at the time residents were told the bridge was only temporary.
"It was only supposed to be a temporary thing, but 20 years is much more than temporary," she said from her home in Port Greville. "There's so much more traffic on that road and we rely on tourists and service vehicles to come down that road to our communities along the shore. These Band Aid solutions are no longer working."
Cathy MacIsaac from the Department of Transportation said the bridge at Sand River is inspected semi-annually and was checked out following the crash.
"The bridge is inspected regularly and is in good condition. It was checked again after the (incident) and was found to be in good condition," MacIsaac said, adding she was not aware of any recent complaints on the condition of the bridge deck.
MacIsaac said that while bailey bridges are temporary solutions, they do have a long lifespan. The department does plan to eventually replace the bridge and other one-lane bailey bridges with two-lane structures, but as of yet there is no timeline for replacement.