HALIFAX – Motorists using Highway 2 between Amherst and Springhill have received some good news.
Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Lloyd Hines confirmed Thursday the province will replace the closed Rainbow Bridge over the Nappan River with a new bridge.
“We received the consultants’ report and we’re continue to absorb what it says, but at this point, of the options available to us, we have decided to proceed with a full replacement,” Hines told the Amherst News. “In the longer term, it’s good news for the community because they’re going to get a new structure.”
Hines said three options were presented including building a new bridge, replacing the bridge with a bailey bridge or repairing the existing structure that has been closed since December amid structural concerns.
Hines said putting a semi-permanent structure, or bailey bridge, over the river would greatly reduce the weight-carrying abilities of trucks using the structure to connect from Springhill and other communities with Amherst and the Trans-Canada Highway.
Repairing the bridge, he said, would only be a short-term fix and would likely require more work to be done in several years. Instead, he said, the best option is to build a new structure that will last for decades.
“With this decision, we will be asking for people’s patience as we moved forward,” Hines said. “We’re pushing hard to get the tender to the market within the next four to eight weeks. It’ll have to go through the procurement and we hope to start as quickly as we can.”
Hines could not be specific with when construction would begin, but he expects it to start during the 2018 construction season and be complete in 2019.
He estimates it could cost between $3 million and $4 million to build a new bridge. He expects it will be paid for via the province’s capital bridge over two years.
In the meantime, motorists will continue to have to detour around the closed bridge by using the Smith Road and Southampton Road or the Lower Porter Road. The preferred detour is longer, resulting in most people using the Lower Porter Road. The minister understands these roads are not meant for these traffic volumes and said department crews will keep a close eye on both detour roads and make repairs as needed.
“Once the tender award is made, we would expect construction to begin this year,” the minister said. “It could take a year, or maybe longer. These are complicated structures. We’ll push for expediency because we want this fixed like the people in the community do. It’s something that’s going to take a little longer than repairing it would, but at the end of the day we’re going to have a structure that will last many years.”
Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin welcomed the news and hopes the project proceeds as quickly as possible.
“It’s very good news for Cumberland County in that a major link between Amherst and Springhill is going to be replaced. Let’s just hope it’s completed as expeditiously as possible,” Smith-McCrossin said. “The people of Cumberland County spoke loud and clear and the minister got the message. This is great news.”
The MLA credits Kerry Warner for working hard to raise awareness about the loss of the bridge. Her petition gathered more than 3,000 signatures.
“I am so proud of our small, but strong, community, choosing to stand together and be persistent as a whole when it mattered,” said Warner, whose petition garnered 3,700 signatures. “Silence and patience didn’t bring the existing Rainbow Bridge the attention, priority or improvement the decrepit bridge needed previous to its abrupt closure.
“I feel residents tipped the scales in our community’s favour and the timeline we’re seeing here is a direct result.”
She feels the assessment and decision would have been held off if the public had not been vocal about replacing the structure.
“Not only have they proven this rural bridge is a staple for the safety and efficiency of our community, but the smaller rural communities should be considered a priority as well,” Warner said.