CLARENVILLE, N.L. — While the causeway bridge in Shoal Harbour has been closed for weeks after an inspection found it needed to be replaced, the Town of Clarenville announced Tuesday, June 12, the bridge will reopen for one lane of traffic at a time.
Council held an unscheduled council meeting on Tuesday to approve measures to reopen the bridge. The decision was made after a further inspection by Harbourside Engineering Consultants proved the bridge could be opened in the meantime before work is completed on the structure.
Mayor Frazer Russell told The Packet for light traffic, under 25 tonnes, it would be safe to open one lane for two-way traffic — to be controlled with traffic lights.
“This is a short-term solution and it certainly will relieve the congestion we have had on Shoal Harbour Drive as well as the inconvenience that it has been for our residents and commuters to Clarenville in the last three months,” said Russell.
He says, now that the traffic issue is out of the way, they are focusing on the long-term issue of replacing the bridge.
At the emergency council meeting the options were discussed and approved, including the possibilities of renting the solar-powered traffic lights, or renting to own. Council also decided to forgo any potential short-term renovations to the bridge in favour of concentrating on replacement.
Chief administrative officer David Harris also added there may be additional uses for the lights after they are finished using them at the causeway.
“These lights are going to be there for a while,” said Harris at the meeting.
Russell says they are hoping to look into using culverts underneath the bridge, which will make for a much less expensive project, and more quickly completed as well. Russell estimates the culvert option represents about one third the cost of a whole new bridge.
“The provincial water resources people have visited the site and will have a recommendation for us on that very, very soon,” he said.
However, whether the culvert option is approved or not, the town will require funding to complete the required work. Russell hopes to have a detailed design for the project commissioned over the winter so the project can go to tender next spring, with construction over summer and fall 2019.
“But obviously that involves acquiring suitable funding, whether it’s emergency funding or whatever,” he said. “We’ll have to work on that problem in the coming months.”
When asked if the town is looking at adding a contingency fund to their annual budget, Russell said it’s something they’ll have to look at in the future.
“We didn’t anticipate having this problem and certainly we do not want to dip into our current three-year municipal capital works funding … this will have to be a completely new source of funding and, in our case, it will involve borrowing of some sort.”
He adds that the less amount they have to borrow the better.
“The good news at this point of time is we will have the bridge open to relieve the congestion in that area,” said Russell.
The Mayor thanked the town staff and council for the work they’ve done on the project, as well as Terra Nova MHA Colin Holloway, who Russell says has been working on this issue since day one.
Harris also mentioned at the meeting that there are no safety concerns for residents using the bridge once opened. They are certain, with the limitations put in place, there is no risk to the public in using the bridge.
Council expects the bridge to be open once they’re set up with lights, potentially sometime about two weeks from now.