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Deteriorating bridge in Brookfield can’t wait 5 years for repairs, says councillor

A deputy mayor in Colchester County is worried a deteriorating bridge in Brookfield could be dangerous, but a replacement isn’t scheduled for another five years.

“You can actually see a bow in the beams underneath as you come onto the bridge and you can see the cracks,” Geoff Stewart told CBC’s Information Morning.

The bridge on Highway 289 is the main link between Middle Stewiacke and Upper Stewiacke and is used by buses taking students to and from a nearby high school and elementary school, Stewart said.

“I’ve lived in this community most of my life and this is the worst that I’ve seen the condition of the deck of this bridge,” he said.

He wants a complete renovation of the structure, which was damaged decades ago in a fire, or for it to be replaced altogether.

The province has agreed to do just that — but not until at least 2023.

That’s not soon enough for Stewart.

Community concerned, says Stewart

“I think it’s going to be a lot worse than it is if it’s still there,” he said. “I’m not an engineer but I certainly have seen a lot of changes in that bridge over the last number of years.”

Plus, Stewart said the community has been told before that it was part of the five-year plan, only to have the work put off.

“There’s a lot of concern in the community,” he said. “I’m receiving letters from some of the community groups, individuals are calling in and talking about the condition of the potholes that are on the bridge surface itself.”

Complaints about poor road and bridge conditions are all too common in Nova Scotia, says an MLA in neighbouring Cumberland County.

That’s why Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin is advising people in Stewart’s position to speak up — and loudly.

“If people are looking for repairs … the work is going to get done the louder that they speak up, so I guess it really does come down to the squeaky wheel gets grease,” she said.

The community effort to fix a badly damaged bridge in her constituency is a prime example, Smith-McCrossin said.

A bridge over the Nappan River was deemed unsafe in the fall of 2017, but Smith-McCrossin said letters to the transportation minister went unanswered.

That’s when community members decided to organize. About 5,000 of them signed a petition.

The bridge is now getting repairs that will be done by this fall.

While she admits politicians shouldn’t set priorities based solely on who speaks loudest, Smith-McCrossin also believes public outcry can go a long way.

“The bottom line is we have huge infrastructure needs across the province and not enough money to go around,” she said.

Province says it monitors the bridge

In an email, a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal said the bridge in Brookfield is monitored regularly to make sure it’s safe.

Bridges are inspected on an annual basis and projects are prioritized based on several factors, including safety, condition and cost, the department said. About 10-15 bridges are replaced each year.

“Many bridges in Nova Scotia were built around the same time and are coming to the end of their lifespan. As a result, we have put more money into the rehabilitation of bridges over the past couple of years,” the department said.

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