Pedestrians and cyclists are permitted to use the West Montrose covered bridge after a consultant assessed the condition of the damaged beam and deemed the structure safe to reopen to foot traffic.
The bridge was shut down completely last week after the Region of Waterloo discovered a crack in one of the support beams underneath the structure. While the bridge is now open to pedestrians, that decision comes with some restrictions, says transportation infrastructure supervisor Shawn Buckley.
Barricades will remain on both ends of the bridge to keep out vehicular traffic and there are fenced off areas within the bridge that will funnel pedestrians along one side.
Back in 2014, a preservation plan was created to find solutions to some of the historical bridge’s issues. Fire protection was at the top of the priorities, says Buckley, and now the regional staff are working on structural issues.
Through different studies over the years, Buckley and his team are sifting through the options to control vehicle size and weight to fix overloading issues. With no certain answer to what caused the crack in the beam, “it’s very likely that it was caused by an overweight vehicle.”
Among the solutions being looked at, the region is considering putting load detection systems into the asphalt, which is expensive, or placing a bracket system that will control the size of vehicles that can enter the bridge. But has not been deemed overly successful in other cases they’ve been used, Buckley noted.
The bridge is likely to remain closed for the next several months, repairs prolonged due to the need to get the right timber pieces to match the historic bridge, according to Buckley. Once the materials are in the regional staff can start on the actual repairs.
Until further notice the bridge is closed to vehicular traffic, which includes horse-drawn buggies, but will remain accessible for pedestrians and cyclists.