Ontario’s only covered bridge is closed.
The Region of Waterloo made a decision to restrict all vehicle and buggy traffic on the West Montrose Bridge as a safety precaution.
A floor beam that supports a portion of the bridge deck has failed likely due to overloading by heavy vehicles, despite weight restrictive signage.
The damage to the bridge was reported by an observant resident who was kayaking under the bridge last week.
“Upon hearing of the issue, Regional staff checked the bridge, and noted the damage. We then confirmed through a consultant that the damage was sufficient enough to warrant limiting traffic loading on the bridge,” said Shawn Buckley Senior Transportation Infrastructure Engineer for Region of Waterloo.
Last Thursday the region limited traffic to horse and buggies only but noticed that cars and trucks were still crossing the bridge and made the decision to close the bridge to all traffic, except pedestrians to ensure no further damage would be sustained to the structure until a repair can be made, which could take up to a couple of weeks.
“We are hoping to have the necessary repair made within a couple of weeks, but we will have a better indication once we hear back from the consultant, who is preparing the recommendation for repair,” said Buckley. “Due to the nature of the floor beam failure, we suspect it was caused by overloading of the bridge. “
The bridge is currently posted with a 3 tonne or 6,600 lbs limit.
“Our first priority is to have the bridge fixed, and reopened to light traffic. Further discussions surrounding whether heavier loads will be allowed onto the bridge have started, but will take some time to come to any conclusions.”
Although the region owns the bridge the West Montrose Residents’ Association, the BridgeKeepers, have been key to helping maintain and clean the bridge and organizers hope to help in any way they can with the repairs.
“We are discussing amongst ourselves how we can get involved in the process. There has been nothing formally done but we have been in communication with the region. We are hoping to sit down with them and hopefully we can create a joint venture as we are the eyes on the ground in West Montrose,” said Tony Dowling member of the BridgeKeepers. “We would like to help out any way we can whether that be physically or just help make sure that this or something worse doesn’t happen again.”
The iconic West Montrose “kissing bridge” was built in 1881 across the Grand River on the road between Guelph and Elmira. The bridge is one of the iconic symbols that have been used to identify the region in tourism promotion, and there are thousands of people who visit the bridge each year.