Bridging the gap

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Traffic flows across the Parry Bridge on Keil Drive in Chatham.
Traffic flows across the Parry Bridge on Keil Drive in Chatham.

Although it may be an inconvenience, the weight restriction placed on the Parry Bridge at Keil Drive is actually a good thing, according to Chatham-Kent’s manager of infrastructure Thomas Kelly.

“We have an evaluation process where all of our 830 bridges three meters or greater are checked once every two years,” he said. “We’re far better off knowing that we have a weight restriction issue than having a catastrophic failure.”

The Parry Bridge is the busiest in Chatham-Kent. The 60-year-old structure carries 20,000 vehicles each day. It had a nine-tonne weight restriction placed on it in June.

0910parrybridgeplaque“We had planned on upgrading the bridge in 2016. Bridges are living structures. They are under constant dynamic loading. The last two winters have been extremely harsh, resulting in us using more salt. Salt is not a friend to bridges so the deterioration we anticipated happened sooner.”

Kelly said he understands concerns such as those expressed by Coun. Michael Bondy who told the Voice he is frustrated that rural bridges are being repaired ahead of Parry, but there isn’t anything that can be done about it.

“It’s not a matter of calling a firm and saying come and fix our bridge,” he said. “Evaluations have to be done, plans made, approvals given and then the work has to be tendered. Even if council said at its next meeting we have to fix Perry right away, the work couldn’t begin until next year.”

Kelly said the municipality has already received approval of provincial funding for $2 million of the estimated $5 to $6 million cost.

Kelly said his department received $8.6 million in its lifecycle budget this year. “We have enough money to do about 75 per cent of the needed work in any given year,” he said. “We’re running at a deficit so we try to prioritize very carefully.”

He said notices were sent out to the Kent Federation of Agriculture and to local business through the Economic Development Department to inform them to use an alternate route.

“There are still a few vehicles using the bridge that shouldn’t be but most companies are avoiding it. We may at some point, as the Chatham Kent Police Service starts monitoring the bridge to issue tickets but we hope we don’t need to get to that point.”

Kelly’s next task is to secure funding for the Fifth Street Bridge in downtown Chatham. “We’re going to be seeking the maximum $2 million in funding from the province. That structure is slated for repairs in 2018.”

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