Traffic driving around the Sir Robert Bond Bridge can probably see more clearly in recent days.
Work has begun on the project of replacing the more than 60 year old bridge located on the Trans-Canada Highway over the Exploits Valley near Bishop’s Falls.
“The contract for all the clearing on both sides of the bridge was awarded to Harvey Gale and Son Ltd., they are doing all the clearing on both sides because the accesses on both sides have to be reconfigured,” said Exploits District MHA Clayton Forsey. “The new bridge is going down below the one that’s there, which means on the north side towards Newfoundland Hydro.”
The bridge is showing its age, with few renovations over the years. In 2012, the bridge underwent rehab work, but two years later it remained rated in overall poor condition. Inspectors recommended repairs within one year. Now, Ottawa and the province are allocating money for a new bridge to be finished in 2015.
“There will be a lot of activity, and it will be good for the economy for the region,” Forsey said.
The original cost on the project was $22.8 million, with the federal government putting in $10 million and the provincial government picking up the rest, Forsey said.
“It’s quite an investment but it’s long overdue,” he said. “This is really the only link that we have, it’s a vital link to the provincial and federal transportation...It will always be there, it will need to be there, and it needs to be one, so now it’s going to be done.”
The bridge will be completely replaced, and moved to a different location, meaning interchanges have to be created. Changes will be seen in the interchanges going to Botwood, from Bishop’s Falls/Grand Falls-Windsor on the west and on the east side going towards Lewisporte, Forsey said.
Though Forsey said he is not sure of the specs of the bridge, he said it would be safer, wider, a little bit longer, and a bit higher, so traffic won’t have to drive down onto the bridge when entering it.
The project will be good for the transportation network, and for the economy, Forsey said.
The way that it’s going to be reconfigured means tenders will be sent out, and contracts awarded for the work.
“The way the contracts are working, we’re doing the clearing now, so the clearing will be completed,” Forsey said. “The next thing will be a tender going out for the roadwork on both sides for the accesses. The tender for that should be out in probably a month to two months. Then following that the tender will go out for the actual construction of the bridge.”
Forsey added a pedestrian walkway is in the plans, as the river is extensively used by recreational salmon fishers.
Though he said he cannot confirm parking, he believes when the accesses are changed there will be space available for parking.
There’s no shame to the Sir Robert Bond Bridge, Forsey said, as it has served its purpose, and a good purpose.
“I’m told there’s 6,700 vehicles going over that bridge every day,” Forsey said. “Along with the debris, ice, the flood and everything that’s gone down the river as well, it’s taken an awful beating in 60 years.”
In 1983, for example, the river rose and the water actually went over the bridge, he said.
“That bridge that was put there has weathered many battles and it had to be a good piece of engineering work when it was done,” Forsey said. “When we had the flood in 1983 there were houses that went down on top of the river and was beating up at the bridge. There were two boxcars that went through there which haven’t been found yet…so there’s been a lot of activity on that bridge. That bridge has weathered many storms.”
According to when the announcement was made last fall, the plan was to have it completed in 2015, he said.
While the roadwork and bridgework is being completed, traffic will not be affected long-term.
“The old bridge is going to remain there so all traffic will use the old bridge until the new one is replaced,” Forsey said. “I’m sure close to the end of the contract when they join up the new bridge with the new road, the there will be some delays. It’s not going to be closed for a long time because it’s the only link we have. Hopefully there won’t be too much interruption.”