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Bridge ownership in question as Clarenville seeks solutions for repair

The causeway bridge at Balbo Drive in the Town of Clarenvile has been reduced to one lane of traffic for almost two years.
FILE PHOTO
The causeway bridge at Balbo Drive in the Town of Clarenvile has been reduced to one lane of traffic for almost two years. FILE PHOTO
CLARENVILLE, N.L. —

In the ongoing saga of the need to replace the Shoal Harbour causeway bridge, the Town of Clarenville says it has good reason to believe the town doesn’t actually own the structure.

“We recently obtained legal opinion on this whole situation,” Chief Administrative Officer David Harris told The Packet on Feb. 17. “Our lawyer, in his opinion, has said we have a valid case supporting our argument that the bridge has never been transferred to the Town of Clarenville.”

According to Harris, the lawyer has reviewed correspondence between the town and the province, going back to 1995, leading him to conclude that the province had no intention of transferring that section of Balbo Drive to the town.

Historically, Memorial and Balbo Drive had been a provincially-owned and maintained road because it was the main link to the Bonavista Peninsula from the Trans Canada Highway.

The Town of Clarenville, however, has been maintaining the road since 1995.

The question of ownership of the causeway bridge came about last year as the town began discussions with the province on funding for repair after an engineering assessment deemed the structure must be replaced.

The bridge has been reduced to one lane of traffic since spring 2018.

The Town of Clarenville has been conducting engineering work for a replacement.

PC MHA Lloyd Parrott, Terra Nova district, also raised the question of ownership of the bridge last June. He raised the issue again on Friday, Feb. 14 in a press release reiterating that, in 1995, correspondence between then transportation minister John Efford and the town indicated that the province had no interest in transferring responsibility for this infrastructure to the municipality.

“Further supporting the town's case is the fact that the provincial government inspected the bridge in 1997 and scheduled it for replacement by the province in 2015, just before the Ball government came to office,” Parrott noted in a press release issued last Friday, Feb. 14.

Parrott called on the province to be reasonable and work with the town of Clarenville for a solution.

“This a piece of regional infrastructure is used by thousands of commuters and tourists daily, as well as commercial traffic and Transportation and Works,” said Parrott in the news release.

“An outright closure of the causeway would be devastating to the businesses and commerce of the entire region, not to exclude the fact that Transportation and Works would have to go all the way around the Trans-Canada Highway to get to areas they’re responsible for.”

Regardless of the question of ownership, CAO Harris says this has not changed how the town is proceeding on the matter. They are continuing to focus on a funding solution.

The cost of replacing the bridge is expected to be over $3 million.

The town originally applied last year under the Investing in Canada infratructure funding program. The town’s share would be one-third of the total cost of the work.

Last October the town started the process to seek approval to borrow $1.25 million to cover its share of the cost of the bridge replacement.

CAO Harris said council hopes to meet with provincial transportation minister Steve Crocker soon to discuss the matter of funding and ownership, with the hope of being able to negotiate a better cost-sharing arrangement for the town

The town is currently awaiting on a meeting with minister Crocker on the issue. A previously-scheduled meeting had to be cancelled due to bad weather.

“We’re kind of in a holding pattern waiting to get his response to our correspondence that we sent him," said Harris.

Jonathan Parsons

THE PACKET

jonathan.parsons@thepacket.ca

@nlpacket

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