Placentia a ‘ghost town’ as broken bridge cuts access

James McLeod
Published on August 5, 2014
The Placentia lift bridge was out of commission and government officials were trying to get it fixed Monday, after a mechanical failure left it hanging at an angle.
— Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram

The patio at the Three Sisters pub and restaurant provided a great view of the Placentia lift bridge, stuck hanging at an ugly angle Monday around lunchtime.

There was nobody there to see it, though — four of the five tables were empty (the last one was filled by a Telegram reporter).

The server at the Three Sisters said that on an average day when the Marine Atlantic ferry is coming in at Argentia, they get 70 or 80 people, and the place is blocked. On Monday, she said, they had 17 or 18 people come through.

Just down the road, a couple of ladies standing outside the Bridgeway Hotel told a similar story.

“Placentia is like a ghost town,” Rosanne Traverse said. “The businesses are all going to be affected by it.”

Transportation Minister Nick McGrath said Monday around lunchtime that the priority was to get the bridge down and level so vehicles could drive across it.

But late Monday afternoon, the government sent out a public advisory saying the bridge will stay closed at least a little while longer.

Provincial crews continued to work on the bridge throughout the day, and Monday evening Placentia Mayor Wayne Power posted to Twitter a picture of the bridge in the down position. The immediate goal is to re-establish vehicular traffic.

McGrath was at pains to make clear the bridge didn’t collapse, although some sort of mechanical failure meant one side of the lift bridge went down slowly when it was supposed to stay up.

McGrath repeatedly stressed the bridge remains structurally sound, and the problem is mechanical. He said it’s been inspected daily, but there wasn’t any way to predict the failure.

The government has acknowledged the bridge has outlived its usefulness, and right next to the crippled bridge, construction is ongoing on a new, $40-million lift bridge.

But so long as it’s out of commission, the situation is a major inconvenience for people who live in the area.

Fishing vessels are tied up at the wharf on the wrong side of the bridge, cut off from the ocean.

“As long as they’re tied up, they’re losing money,” Power said in an interview. “I believe there was one vessel in there today that was baited and ready to go, and just missed out on getting out.”

Until the problem is fixed, the only option is for people to take the long way around, driving on an unpaved road through the woods to connect to the highway.

That route has major problems, too. The dry conditions make vehicles on the gravel road kick up a lot of dust, and the road has washboard bumps in some sections.

It’s not great in a car, and it’s much worse the way Robin Bandell did it — on a motorcycle.

Bandell took a wrong turn, confused by the detour sign on the road, trying to get to the Argentia ferry so he could head home to Nova Scotia.

Speaking to The Telegram in Placentia, he was plainly unhappy about the prospect of heading back the other way to get to the ferry terminal.

“Trucks are passing you, and you’re just blind — friggin’ blind,” he said. “We could’ve friggin’ been in the woods. It could have been a 911 call.”

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