Sandy Lake bridge pushed up the list

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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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.

Organizations: The Telegram, Department of Transportation and Works, Johnsons Construction

Geographic location: Howley, Sandy Lake, Laval, Que Quebec

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Recent comments

  • Brian Kelly (Howley)
    March 16, 2014 - 08:09

    I have sent several letters to many levels of government with a proposal to save money on this project while increasing public safety and tourism for the area. I have letters of support from: Town of Howley Junction Trial Blazers Snowmobile Club Newfoundland Labrador Snowmobile Federation Local MP: Gerry Byrne Here is a copy of my proposal letter. To whom it may concern; Hi, my name is Brian Kelly. I currently reside in Howley, Newfoundland. This letter will present an idea that will better the Town of Howley, the general public, public safety as well as tourism in this area. Currently there is bridgework being done on Route 401 or “Howley Road.” There has been a temporary bride erected directly beside and parallel to the original bridge which is to be replaced. There has been a lot of money spent erecting this second bridge and moving of the power lines. There will be a lot more spent to remove the temporary bridge and all the aggregate placed there and more again to move the power lines the second time. My idea will save a lot of money by leaving the temporary bridge or “bailey bridge” in place. The power lines could also stay where they currently are. This bridge could then be used by pedestrians rather than impeding traffic as they have done on the original bridge. The secondary bridge could also be used for Skidoos, quads and bikes to cross Sandy Lake the same as vehicle traffic. Also, if there ever comes a time when the original bridge needs to closed for any reason there is already another bridge in place and ready to use, without the extra cost. There have been bridges placed like this on the northern peninsula for snowmobile clubs in that area. It’s a great idea for this area and a prime opportunity to do it. Currently there is a trail in place from Howley to this bridged area I’m speaking of and it is used. If there were a bridge in place it would link over 400 cabins on Sandy Lake to Howley and its services. This bridge would allow the trail to continue on to the Trans Canada Highway and to the White Bay junction, where the registered provincial snowmobile trail already exists. Thus, connecting small struggling towns together with a very viable tourist attraction. Also increasing PUBLIC SAFETY and keeping snowmobilers off a very dangerous area of the ice on Sandy Lake. This trail would then connect the northern coast to the interior of the province as there is a registered snowmobile trail from Howley to Buchans and onward to Grand Falls. From Howley, people have a choice to go east or west on the abandoned railway track to Badger or Deer Lake or go across country to Buchans. (Another small struggling town) The bridge and trail combined would promote small towns, tourism, public safety and local business. All I ask is leave a bridge in place that is already there. It would save money to leave it there and help out numerous groups and communities. This bridge would be used all year long by outdoor enthusiasts, walking, quading, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, hunting etc. The list goes on. Please review the attached maps and consider my idea. Thank You, Brian Kelly Howley, Newfoundland Small business owner & outdoor enthusiast There is also an online petition.