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Region ponders reopening West Montrose bridge

It has been one month since the iconic covered bridge in West Montrose was closed when a floor beam that supports a portion of the structure failed likely due to overloading by heavy vehicles.

Waterloo Region officials are hoping to have the repairs done this week but are not sure when it will reopen to vehicle traffic.

“Workers have put some temporary bracing in and around the area of the damaged beam and right now we are leaning towards not opening the bridge until we can assess what needs to be done,” said Shawn Buckley, senior transportation infrastructure engineer for Region of Waterloo.

The West Montrose covered bridge is under repair after a support beam crack. The region has yet to decide when it will re-open the bridge to motor vehicles. [colin dewar / the observer]
Repairs to the 131-year-old bridge are estimated to cost $35,000. A 4.3-metre Douglas Fir square beam arrived in Toronto on Monday. It came from British Columbia and was sent to Toronto to be pressure treated before continuing the journey to West Montrose to be put in place, said Buckley.

“We are optimistic that the bridge will be repaired by this week, it all depends on the new beam and when it arrives,” he said Tuesday.

Opening the bridge to traffic is a different story, he added, as officials have only just begun to discuss when they plan deem it sare.

“We are having internal discussion about opening the bridge first and then they will fan out into the community to get their take. We have to figure out how we are going to control the traffic loading on the bridge,” he said.

While the bridge is closed, a consultant is gathering additional information on the structure to help with the decision as to when it should be reopened.

“We have to reanalyze that three-tonne limit and some of the information we need to do that analysis needs to be gathered while the bridge is (under repairs), as all the paneling along the sides are open and we can take a look at how the bailey truss is performing underneath,” Buckley said of the steel under the wooden bridge.

The region has been providing information when they can to concerned residents and will be holding a private meeting with the residence association of West Montrose to discuss what has happened so far with the repairs to the bridge.

A public meeting will also be held, but not until after the repair work is completed. That meeting will discuss what to do with the provincially protected historic bridge and how to keep heavy vehicles off it.

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