Permanent fix for Dorian-damaged Grand-Barachois bridge will cost millions: opposition MLA

Click to play video: 'Permanent solution for Dorian-damaged N.B. bridge could cost millions, MLA says' Permanent solution for Dorian-damaged N.B. bridge could cost millions, MLA says
WATCH: While construction of a modular bridge is well underway in Grand-Barachois , the focus is starting to shift towards a permanent solution. As Callum Smith reports, that could come with a hefty price tag. – Mar 3, 2020

As construction of a temporary bridge progresses in Southeastern New Brunswick, a long-term replacement option could cost $5-$7-million, according to Jacques LeBlanc, Liberal MLA for Shediac-Beaubassin-Cap-Pelé.

The Kouchibouguac River Bridge connecting Rte. 133 in Grand-Barachois was damaged by post-tropical storm Dorian back in September, and the provincial government eventually determined a modular bridge would be installed until a long-term plan was prepared and implemented.

“[A new bridge] would have to meet the climate change recommendations, it would have to probably be elevated a whole lot more with a half-moon structure like we see in other areas,” LeBlanc says. “The estimates I’m getting [are] between $5-$7-million to construct a brand new bridge.”
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The modular bridge construction is progressing as a replacement for the Kouchibouguac River Bridge. Callum Smith / Global News
LeBlanc, who is also the tourism critic for the official opposition, says he’s “very hopeful [and] very proud” of the progress made on the modular construction.

Jeremy Trevors, a spokesperson with the province’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DTI), says “the installation of the modular bridge is expected to be open to the motoring public on March 31st, weather permitting.”

“The cost of the installation of the modular bridge is estimated at approximately $1.2 million, while the cost of the replacement bridge is still being assessed,” Trevors tells Global News in an emailed statement.

READ MORE: Cap-Pelé business loses money due to bridge closure post-Dorian

In a December 2019 news release, DTI said it had “signed a Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangement with the federal government, securing funding to complete the project.”

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“We’re going to have to be patient, this is a temporary structure, it’s a one-lane bridge,” LeBlanc says.

A permanent solution could be a three-year wait, or longer, to be put in place, LeBlanc says. But some residents question if a long-term fix will actually come.

“They’re saying a permanent bridge could be four or five years before it’s done… Or, that’s what they’re saying,” says local resident Morris LeBlanc.

Louis Melanson, a member of a concerned citizens group, is pleased things appear to be full steam ahead, at least for the time being.

“I think that they’re going to save the tourism season,” he says. “It certainly is encouraging.”

READ MORE: New Brunswick picks up the pieces after hurricane Dorian

Locals and the MLA will be pushing for a footbridge for walkers or cyclists to be part of a permanent replacement, Melanson says.

“That’s one of the things that has been suggested and we have asked the government to keep in mind.”

Global has reached out to Transportation Minister Bill Oliver, but he wasn’t available for an interview Tuesday.

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