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Replacing Romaine’s River Bridge

Department of Transportation and Infrastucture expects to issue tenders this year

Maintenance crews were seen working as recently as last week, filling potholes on Romaine’s River bridge . – © Jaymie L. White

By Jaymie L. White

Special to the Appalachian

PORT AU PORT EAST – Winter means hazardous driving conditions under the best circumstances; however, when there are damages to the roadways and bridges, those conditions are amplified.

Romaine’s River bridge in Port au Port East offers the only connection for the peninsula to Stephenville and the rest of the Bay St. George area, and motorists are feeling the stress of accidents and vehicle damage due to its deteriorating state.

Residents have been taking to Facebook to post updates to warn those driving across the bridge that they need to come to an almost full stop over sections of the bridge.

Mayor of Port au Port East, Jim Cashin, says a replacement bridge is something the council has been lobbying for over the past 10 years.

“It is crucial that work begin as soon as the construction season starts. The government’s own inspectors have said that the bridge needs to be replaced for safety reasons. This project should have been completed last year. Failure to do so puts lives at risk.”

Cashin said there are numerous reasons why this bridge needs to be completed as soon as possible, and with three traffic lane, with two for regular vehicle traffic and one for pedestrians and other users.

“Aside from the obvious danger of the collapse of the bridge, a closure of it could mean that someone does not get to the hospital in Stephenville. Employees can’t report to work at the mine in Lower Cove, at the schools in Lourdes, Mainland, Cape St. George, Piccadilly, or Port-au-Port East. In the event of a power outage, work crews would be unable to respond. On the other side of the coin, hundreds of people depend on the bridge to go to work in Kippens, Stephenville, Stephenville Crossing, and Corner Brook. In addition to this there are thousands of people who use this bridge to avail of any number of goods and services in the Bay St. George area.”

MHA Tony Wakeham (Stephenville – Port au Port) referenced a press conference in Corner Brook in July 2019 where three bridges were announced as having to be replaced, and Romaine’s River bridge was one of them.

“I’ve been following up with the Minister to say when can we see some movement and when can we get an update on the replacement of it because last year – it was the same time last year prior to an election – when we had the same type of conditions. Not as bad as they are now because these are the worst I’ve seen, and they again alluded to the fact that they are going to be doing the engineering studies and work is going to be done.”

Wakeham said delays in maintenance to the bridge have once again reduced it to a worrisome state.

“There was a commitment made that they would do some repairs to the surface of the current bridge last summer in terms of recapping it or repaving it — never got done. So now we find ourselves in the same situation again where it deteriorated to an extreme condition, and of course they’re limited this at time of the year in what they can do.”

Wakeham said this maintenance is something that should be done routinely to avoid people losing their only access to the Peninsula.

“That bridge is the TCH of the Port au Port Peninsula. It’s the only way in and out of the Port au Port Peninsula and it’s a critical piece of infrastructure. When you think about the traffic and you think about that fact, you also think that the maintenance of that bridge would be a critical part of maintenance that the Department of Transportation and Works should be doing on a regular basis because there are no other options.”

In response to email inquiries, Brian Scott and Kathryn Summers, Director of Communications and Media Relations Manager, respectively, with the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure issued the following response:

“In July 2019, the department and Infrastructure Canada announced more than $30 million in joint funding to replace five bridges in the province with larger bridges, which included the Romaine’s Rive Bridge on Route 460. The new bridges will be capable of withstanding increased water flows during major weather events and also protect against future flood damage.

A considerable amount of work is required before construction on the new bridge can begin. Since that time, work has included hiring the necessary consultants, beginning the engineering work to design a new bridge for this location and others, and preparing tenders to construct them.”

The department does intend to begin replacement of the bridge starting this year.

“A design for Romaine’s River Bridge is being finalized and the department anticipates issuing a tender to replace the bridge and construction to start later this year. The department also anticipates construction of the new bridge to take approximately two years.

Maintenance crews were working on the bridge as recently as this week repairing potholes. Repairs at this time of year are often temporary due to the challenges associated with maintenance in the wintertime. The department monitors the condition of the bridge and makes repairs as necessary as part of its maintenance program.”

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