Funding cleared for replacement project
Provincial budget day has yet to roll around, revealing the full plans for public spending for the coming year, yet the provincial government has pre-committed to some expenditures, as ongoing work from 2013.
One of those commitments is to the replacement of the Sandy Lake Narrows bridge near Howley.
“The construction of a two-lane, 75-meter, steel box girder bridge over Sandy Lake on Route 401 near Howley was tendered on November 6, 2013 and closed on December 12, 2013,” according to information provided to The Telegram by a staff member with the Department of Transportation and Works.
The contractor for the new bridge is Johnsons Construction and the total value of the contract is roughly $4.3 million before tax.
“As the work continues into fiscal year 2014-15 (April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015), there is a requirement to pre-commit funds that extend into next year. It is routine procedure,” noted a department spokesman.
For continuation of the bridge replacement, $3 million has been set aside for the coming year.
The existing bridge in Howley was nine metres wide and roughly 90 metres long, built in 1968 and last repaired in 1993.
According to a report, completed after an inspection in August 2011, the bridge was last found to be in overall fair condition, with a recommendation for further inspection in one year.
However, the bridge is now being replaced — ahead of the more than 100 others listed in poor condition.
According to the department spokesman, the bridge was moved up the priority list after inspection work completed following the collapse of the De la Concorde overpass in Laval, Que. The inspection of the Howley bridge was separate from regular bridge inspections.
“One of the design characteristics of the Sandy Lake structure is similar to one of the design element of the Concorde bridge. Further evaluations were carried out and although there were no evident concerns, the decision was made to be proactive and add the bridge to the list for replacement,” stated an emailed response to questions.
The bridge at Sandy Lake Narrows was stated to be the only bridge covered by the province, with a similar design characteristic as the De la Concorde overpass.
The collapse of that overpass was in September 2006. In October, according to The Telegram’s archives, then-Transportation minister John Hickey was specifically asked about the bridge at Howley in connection to the collapse in Quebec and Hickey said a detailed inspection of the bridge at Howley was to be completed within the week.
Meanwhile, in his last report, provincial auditor general Terry Paddon stated a significant number of bridges in the province are approaching an age where they will have to be considered for replacement.
“The cost of replacing bridges, 40 years old or greater, could be in excess of $800 million,” he wrote of the province’s obligations. That is eight times more than planned funding for the next five years.
There is no specific schedule for bridge replacements and, according to the AG, they are undertaken as Transportation and Works identifies a need.
Paddon noted 154 bridges with an overall rating of poor were included in the department’s five-year plan for 2014-18 as of the time of his look into bridge inspection and monitoring.