CORNWALL – One of the longest bridges in SDG Counties is due for a major refit, which may cause a season of traffic headaches in Chesterville.
The County Road 43 bridge across the South Nation River is the second longest bridge structure (70 metres) in the United Counties and is due for an extensive rehabilitation in 2023.
Construction challenges for the bridge, which is in poor condition, will mean a 20-25 week closure and detour through Chesterville which is the more cost-effective option. That detour will more than double the daily traffic through the village.
“The challenge we face with this structure is that its design and construction doesn’t facilitate a staged detour,” said SDG Transportation Director Ben deHaan. “With a very large structure, it gets very challenging to do that in one construction season.”
Where other bridge rehab projects may have one lane closed, alternating through traffic on the opposite lane, the South Nation River bridge has some design challenges. The spacing of the four support girders beneath the bridge deck make keeping one lane of the deck open more expensive.
deHaan explained that crews would have to alternate work on areas near the centre of the bridge deck. Combined with the length of the bridge, keeping one through lane of bridge open to traffic will add a second season of construction, and an estimated $400,000 to the cost. The project is slated to cost about $2.85 million.
Staff have proposed two possible routes, all via county roads, to move vehicles through the village. The first will bypass the bridge construction via County Roads 37 and 7 through the village. The second route would take vehicles through Chesterville on CR9 and 7. Both routes will increase daily traffic counts from 2,000 to about 5,000 vehicles. The second option requires traffic to cross the Canadian Pacific Railway’s busy Toronto-Montreal mainline twice.
Planning with the Counties’ consultant on the project is at the 70 per cent mark. deHaan explained that with the impact to the design, they need to decide if project will require the detour, or a longer time-frame.
Councillor Steve Densham (North Stormont) asked how oversized traffic would be handled and what the additional wear and tear for the detour roads would be. Permits are already required from SDG for any oversized loads deHaan explained. “They are going to be taking a different route, either north or south.”
He added that there will be more wear and tear on the detour route, “but the roads are in good shape.”
“This would be a major undertaking,” said Warden Tony Fraser, who is also mayor of North Dundas and from Chesterville. He voiced concerns of the “dip in the road” on CR9 at the CPR grade crossing.
“I can’t see this bridge taking two seasons,” Fraser said alluding to the East Castor bridge project north of Winchester in 2021-22.
Councillor Jason Broad (South Dundas) said he was concerned about the safety aspect of a two-year staged construction project for the bridge. On the detour of CR43 traffic through Chesterville, “some [drivers] may plan a different route knowing the detour was already there anyways.”
Supportive of the closure and detour plan, Councillor Theresa Bergeron (North Dundas) quipped that she and Fraser may not be popular for recommending the detour. “But as far as I am concerned, we can do the time-span in one season instead of it being out for two years.”
Responding to a question about construction time-lines from Alternate-Councillor Jeff Manley (North Glengary), deHaan said SDG has been challenged with bridgework projects.
“That industry is no different than any other industry out there where it is hard to find people to do the work,” he explained.
SDG Manager of Infrastructure Michael Jans added that the consultant predicts it will take 20-25 weeks for the staged construction.
“Our in-window work starts in July and frost starts in November,” deHaan said. “If we’re done by early November, we’re doing well.”
No formal resolution for directing staff on the project was adopted by council. The project will be presented as part of the department’s budget at next month’s budget deliberations.
deHaan said the project will be out for tender soon afterwards. Public consultation meetings and additional communication will be planned for due to the traffic disruptions.