It’s not funny anymore. For residents of Northport, the closing of the bridge linking the community together was at first an inconvenience they were willing to accept due to its unsafe appearance.
When local bus driver Stevely Mitchell refused to transport elementary school students over the aging structure, residents cheered the move, thinking it would finally force the government’s hand to build a new bridge.
The bridge was closed on April 1, well over a year ago, and the community is still without a new one. What they have received is delay after delay, new completion date after new completion date, and a truckload of excuses. First it was a budget issue, and then it was severe weather and sub-surface issues. Oh, and there were apparently problems with environmental permits.
The local school even took advantage of the situation in a tongue and cheek fashion, by creating a lottery pool in which participants could buy a ticket by picking the date they expected to see the bridge finished. Whoever ends up the closest gets to split the proceeds of the lottery 50/50 with the Northport Home and School Association.
Cumberland North MLA Brian Skabar showed good humour by playing along with the fundraiser, but his guess of a June completion date will not win him the prize. In fact, the string of delays on this matter will not win him any favours from people in Northport.
No one’s laughing anymore. The latest announcement that the project would not meet its targeted June completion date did not even come with an excuse why. A Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal spokesperson simply said there was no indication when the $5.6 million bridge would be completed.
For more than a year, Northport has been split in two. Businesses like Craig’s Grocery have suffered accordingly, while elementary school children have had to take a long detour around Mud Creek Road just to get to school, not to mention neighbours and volunteer firefighters.
The people in this community deserve better. They also deserve far more than an explanation at this point. They deserve an apology.