“It started off well…” says Dewittville resident Bill Martin, describing the repair work on the 100-year-old bridge that spans the Chateauguay river and links Route 138A in Godmanchester’s Dewittville to Hinchinbrooke’s Island Road. The patrimonial bridge has been closed since June 2016, when a routine inspection revealed structural issues with the piers and foundation. For the last five years, residents have been forced to detour 24 minutes to cross the river at Huntingdon or drive 16 minutes to Ormstown in order to cross there.
On August 26, 2020, The Gleaner reported that repairs scheduled to begin that month were delayed when the Ministry of the Environment shut work down, even though permits had been given in the previous year. While no explanation was given at the time, it had been an ongoing concern that the bridge repairs would affect the habitat of a threatened species of fish, the channel darter.
Hinchinbrooke mayor, Carolyn Cameron, made many enquiries at the time and was able to describe the extent of the repairs needed: “The bridge will be raised, and pylons sunk into each side to add support.” A communication from Karine Abdel of the Quebec Ministry of Transport stated that construction would take place in 2021.
In the fall of 2020, a membrane was laid in the water under the bridge as preparation for the upcoming repairs. Quarry rock was placed on top, to create a dike. Bill Martin reports that the excavating machinery brought in had vegetable oil-powered hydraulics, in order to avoid pollution of the river.
True to the Ministry of Transport’s promise, work began late this April. Shortly thereafter, according to Bill Martin, the strong current from the spring thaw and rains washed the dike and rocks away. Construction suddenly stopped. Martin explains, “It has to be dry where they are working.”
Local resident Pam Thwaites also noticed the absence of the construction crew. Thwaites owns some land adjacent to the bridge, and the Ministry of Transport had rented it from her for a two-month period in order to start the repairs. Although Thwaites was a little upset to lose trees and some bushes, she says, “I’m very satisfied. They have been very polite.” She has been compensated for the intrusion onto her land, and has even found the construction noise bearable, thanks in part to double-glazed windows.
The Ministry of Transport recently reassured Cameron that construction would resume on May 25, with the project expected to end by late August. Bill Martin voices the thoughts of all local residents when he says, “We hope to see them back.”