Christmas came early for residents of Dewittville on December 2 when the century-old Dewittville Bridge was reopened, after having been closed to traffic for nearly five and a half years.
During a ceremony on December 6, Hinchinbrooke’s former mayor, Carolyn Cameron, was joined by the mayor of Godmanchester, Pierre Poirier, and Huntingdon MNA Claire IsaBelle to officially open the repaired bridge, which spans the Chateauguay River to link the 138A in Godmanchester to Hinchinbrooke’s Island Road. Residents from both sides of the river were invited to attend the ceremony, with many noting the significance of the bridge to the close-knit Dewittville community.
“It has been five years, five months, and nine days,” said a triumphant Cameron, who took on the reopening of the bridge as a personal crusade. “Thank you for all of the detours you have made,” she said to the residents who were gathered at mid-bridge, in acknowledgement of the disruptions the bridge’s closure had caused. “It divided the community,” she noted, pointing out that the mailboxes for those on the Hinchinbrooke side are located across the bridge, meaning a simple act of checking for mail resulted in a significant detour.
IsaBelle, who was elected to office while the bridge was closed, admitted this was her first time in Dewittville. “We received, on average, about 10 calls per month on the subject of the bridge,” she said. “And that is without counting the number of calls we received from the mayor,” she added, with a warm smile. “Mrs. Cameron worked especially hard to ensure the bridge was reopened.”
Poirier was equally pleased the bridge was now open and was just as happy to congratulate Cameron on her persistence. “We will miss you, Mrs. Cameron,” he joked, referring to her recent retirement from municipal politics. Poirier also acknowledged the emotional and financial toll the bridge’s closure had taken on Dewittville residents. “I know this was not easy,” he said.
It was in June 2016 that structural issues with the foundation of the bridge forced its emergency closure. Philippe Dion is an engineer and project manager with Parko Inc., the company entrusted with the complex job of reconstructing the bridge’s foundation while preserving the structure. Dion noted the most challenging aspect of the repairs revolved around supporting the bridge while carrying out the work.
“We built watertight cofferdams in the Chateauguay River and erected temporary abutments directly on these,” he explained. Once the structure was stabilized and installed on the temporary supports, they were able to completely rebuild the bridge foundation units and approaches. The work was complicated by narrow and deep approaches, which required the crew to excavate more than three metres below the riverbed.
Once the foundation was completed, the wooden deck of the bridge was replaced, and certain elements of the structure were also repaired. Dion also praised subcontractor Orange Maçonnerie, which was responsible for the installation of cemented stone facings on the concrete foundation units. “The quality of the work is remarkable,” he said.
The work took place over approximately 20 weeks spread out over an entire year. The total cost of the reconstruction was $2 million.
Cameron noted that while she had already used the bridge several times since it reopened, she still had to remind herself that the detour, which had become so familiar, was no longer necessary. The closure had become such a part of everyday life that Darleen Steele of Dewittville referred to the reopening as “almost surreal.”