No updates on Old Florenceville Bridge closure

by | Aug 9, 2022

Province closed the historic bridge in Nov. 2020 due to significant damages

The Old Florenceville Bridge has been closed for nearly two years. Still, the province has no updates on plans to repair the structure.
The bridge, closed in Nov. 2020 after the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure discovered significant damages, is one of two ways to cross the St. John River into Florenceville-Bristol. DTI communications officer Jeremy Trevors said the province conducted a detailed inspection and structural evaluation earlier this year to “determine the feasibility of rehabilitating the structure.”

“In order to reopen the bridge, a substantial investment is required,” Trevors wrote via email. “Recognizing that this bridge is an important structure to the community as it is located in the heart of downtown Florenceville-Bristol, the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure is exploring all options for this bridge, ” Trevors said DTI would have more details later this year.
Mayor Karl Curtis says he hasn’t received any recent updates about the bridge situation. He said the bridge’s closure is taking traffic away from downtown.
“I’m not hearing businesses say anything, but I know if you start taking traffic out of your downtown core, it’s going to have an impact,” said Curtis.
Curtis and Carleton-Victoria MLA Margaret Johnson had a conversation with Premier Blaine Higgs several months ago and were told DTI would look at other options for bridge repairs. Curtis thinks the bridge should be preserved, even if it becomes a walking, single-lane or one-direction bridge.
“[The needed repairs] are significant, but it’s not like it can’t be done,” he said.
Curtis hopes to hear more news soon.
“As long as we’re having the conversations, that’s good, but when you don’t get any conversation going and no responses back … I get a little concerned,” he said.
Johnson said she last spoke to DTI Minister Jill Green about the bridge in early July. She said town representatives and stakeholders were not satisfied with DTI’s initial estimated cost of repairs and other options for the bridge, so Johnson and other involved parties asked for a fulsome examination of the project.
“We’ve had divers in the water. Engineers have looked at it from every angle. It’s taken the better part of a year to get that job done,” Johnson said. “Now it’s a matter of looking to see what exactly the cost is going to be.”
Johnson said federal and provincial funding opportunities are being investigated, and Parliament has been approached about federal funding.
“We’re looking to see if there are any programs that would look at heritage maintenance of structures like this,” Johnson said. “Part of Minister Green and her department’s examination is to see what are the best procedures and what mechanisms are in place that we can access to help offset the costs of the bridge.”

Johnson said the covered bridge’s closure isn’t just annoying to travellers – it’s endangering public safety. Drivers inconvenienced by the closed bridge have been making illegal U-turns in certain spots to shorten their trips, causing accidents.
“People aren’t taking due care and attention,” said Johnson. “They’ve been taking shortcuts, and it’s not safe.”
Curtis and Johnson emphasized the bridge’s historical significance. The Old Florenceville Bridge was built circa 1911 at the same site as the first Florenceville bridge, which was constructed in 1885 and destroyed by fire.
“It is one of the oldest bridges in the province,” said Curtis. “We’re not the only municipality that has a covered bridge, but we’ve lost so many of them over the years. We don’t want to lose another one.”
“It’s one of the oldest river crossings in the province,” Johnson said. “The Premier and I have talked about the fact that we want to preserve our covered bridges because it’s a part of New Brunswick’s history.”
Johnson said she’s “living for the day” when she can announce plans for the bridge.
“We just want to make sure that we do a good job and do it right and make sure [the bridge] lasts an awful lot longer,” she said.

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