Is N.B. government doing enough to protect its covered bridges?
Published Tuesday, August 8, 2017 8:09PM ADT
Questions are being raised over whether the New Brunswick government is doing enough to preserve the province's covered bridges.
There used to be over 4,000, but less than 60 remain, many of which are damaged beyond repair. The latest is the covered bridge in French Village, N.B.
“I know it was a difficult decision for me to make, given the historic significance of that 104-year-old covered bridge,” says New Brunswick Transportation Minister Bill Fraser.
Fraser says their importance isn't lost on him, but says a review of all the province's covered bridges revealed serious structural damage.
“We've done an extensive review on four of those bridges. Three of the four we found issues with that we're currently working on including this one that we have to replace. We intend to inspect another eight this year and over the coming years we're looking to do 10 to 12 each year,” says Fraser.
Bridge advocate Patrick Toth has personally viewed 393 covered bridges in North America, and stresses the importance of the inspection process.
“It would be to everyone's advantage if the inspection process was such that it caught the problems, the rot that some of these wooden bridges suffer, before it's deemed to be too late or too expensive to fix it,” Toth says.
Toth was part of a team working to save a covered bridge at Maxwell Crossing, which was heavily damaged when a vehicle slammed into the wall. Residents made it clear they wanted it saved, not replaced. A year later, the bridge was restored.
Hearing that the French Village bridge has met a different fate doesn't make him happy.
“It upsets me and I hope it upsets a lot of other people too, because once it's gone, you're not going to get it back,” he says.
The cost to tear down and replace the French Village Bridge lies somewhere between $1.7 million and $2.5 million.
Fraser says it's “safe to say” it would cost significantly more to fix it.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown.