Petition aims to keep old Spences Bridge from closing

A Spences Bridge resident is making a last-ditch attempt to stop the province from closing a historic bridge in the town.

Dwayne Roarke has organized an online petition aimed at keeping open the old Spences Bridge crossing. It is targeted at Transportation Minister Todd Stone.

Several studies have determined the 82-year-old bridge is at risk of collapse. The province considers it non-essential because residents and visitors can use the bridge across the Thompson River on the Trans-Canada Highway.

The bridge was first closed in 2009 after concern was raised about its structural integrity. After inspection and an engineering review by the firm Buckland & Taylor, it was temporarily reopened in 2010 for light vehicle traffic only.

A more recent review revealed that the bridge, built to last 50 years, is well past its design life. Key structural components are in poor condition and there is a risk that the bridge could collapse under its own weight due to snow and wind loading, engineers found.

While upgrading the single-lane structure was considered as an option, it would take $10 million and a two-year closure to add a maximum of 10 years' life. A replacement bridge would cost $15 million and three years of construction. Other options include replacing it with a new pedestrian-only crossing or decommissioning the bridge and making local improvements.

The bridge averages about 200 trips a day. For those living close by, using the highway bridge adds about three kilometres round trip.

"I'm calling for a second opinion," Rourke said.

"It's over to experts and experts don't always have imagination. People in other parts of the world are repurposing bridges all the time."

But the ministry said the bridge is unsafe even for pedestrians and will be dismantled.

Area TNRD director Steve Rice said residents managed to keep the bridge open for a few more years with the earlier fight. But he believes there is little option in light of most recent studies and estimates.

"I hope down the road we can explore some options for a pedestrian crossing. (But) it's not imminent."

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