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Loss of bridge 'sad day' in St. Jean

Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press Archives
The unstable St. Jean Baptiste bridge was demolished Saturday.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press Archives The unstable St. Jean Baptiste bridge was demolished Saturday.

St. Jean Baptiste has become the only town between Winnipeg and the U.S. border without a bridge over the Red River.

It took about two seconds to implode the bridge, built in 1947, into rubble Saturday.

Traffic must now go to Morris or Dominion City to cross the Red. School bus routes in the Division Scolaire Franco-Manitobaine and Red River Valley School Division have been changed.

"It's devastating. That bridge has been there 65 years," said Paul Sabourin, who farms on the east side of the bridge. "It's a very sad day, there's no doubt about it. No one was smiling here."

Dynamite was used to bring down the bridge. The blast "was quite a bang. She echoed quite a bit up and down the river," said Brent Manning, part of a six-person committee that's lobbying to have the bridge replaced.

About 200 people turned up for the event, parking their snowmobiles and 4x4s, and witnessing the implosion from viewing areas set up to the north and south of the bridge. The blasting and cleanup of the bridge, which began immediately, was handled by Rakowski Cartage and Wrecking.

The bridge withstood the 1950, 1997 and 2011 floods and every other flood in between. But it was last year's dry summer that finally did it in.

The dry weather caused the banks to contract, and then a rainstorm in the fall caused the banks to slide. The riverbank soil slid into the piers and destabilized them, said Manning, who lives 15 kilometres east of St. Jean Baptiste and used the bridge regularly.

The community has been told it will hear in April at the earliest if the provincial government plans to replace the bridge.

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