HALIFAX – Nova Scotia’s transportation minister said the closed Rainbow bridge outside Amherst is a priority for the province, but cautioned there’s a process that has to be followed.
“We’re in the stage now where we’ve given the consultants a mandate to tell us what we should do and we’re probably a couple of weeks away from receiving that. Once we do get that, we’ll begin the process of either replacing it or repairing it,” Lloyd Hines told the Amherst News on Thursday. “We’re not being stagnant or not doing anything, there is a process and my commitment is to advance this as quickly as we can.”
The minister understands residents and motorists are concerned with the continued detour around the closed bridge, but he stressed safety and doing the right thing are foremost on the mind of his department even if it takes longer than people want.
He also understands there are issues with the detour that’s preferred by motorists, the Porter Road, and added the department’s preference is for motorists to use Route 302 and the Southampton and Smith roads – even if it adds a little travel time.
“I understand if people are impatient, but within the context of the way the province works, the procurement process and the need to seek the best advice on how we go forward I want to reassure people that we are moving as fast as we can to try to solve this issue,” Hines said.
The Porter Road has been taking a pounding from the increased traffic volume while a one-lane bridge at the north side of the road near the intersection with Highway 2 has also created a bit of a bottleneck. The minister said the province is aware of the deteriorating condition of the Porter Road and will do its best to address it through regular maintenance.
Several weeks ago, Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin said she was told it could be up to two years before something is done to repair or replace the bridge. Hines said he’s not sure of the timeline, but doesn’t believe if it would take two years to make repairs.
If the decision is to replace the bridge, he said, it’s a process that takes longer because of design and construction requirements as well as the fact the bridge crosses the Nappan River.
“When we build we’re working on a 50-year horizon. We don’t just pull something out of the sky,” Hines said. “Each bridge is individually tuned to the site because they’re all different. That all has to be worked out and that takes time. It won’t be two years before anything is done, it will considerably less than that. But I can’t tell you until we know what it is we have to do.”
The bridge has been closed since early December after an inspection of the structure found a sag brought on after two bottom chord members failed.
Soon after Smith-McCrossin and former MLA Jamie Baillie launched a petition campaign, area resident Kerry Warner began collecting signatures on the petition that will be presented by the Cumberland North MLA when the legislature resumes.
Warner gathered more than 3,500 signatures before giving the petition to the MLA.
“I thought our local MLA starting the petition was a peaceful and powerful way for the people of the community to be heard, but I know not everyone was aware or able to get downtown during business hours. I wanted to make the petition more accessible to everyone in the community,” Warner said. “I travel the detour usually four times a day, since recently purchasing a country home outside Amherst.”
Warner said she got a great response from people, adding the petition has united the community and feels it gives them a voice.”