In this September 2011 photo, Betty Miller crosses the washed-out Highway 251 bridge over the Souris River east of Coulter following a rally near the structure. Miller was among a group of area residents, farmers and workers who called on various levels of government to replace the bridge after it collapsed due to flooding in spring 2011.
The long-absent Coulter Bridge that connects the small village to Waskada is now rebuilt — five months late and $5 million over budget.
The committee that lobbied the government to fix the bridge after it was flood-ravaged in the spring of 2011 held a grand opening for the bridge on Saturday after the project saw significant delays.
According to a statement issued by the government on Friday, there is still some small work to be done on the bridge, but it wanted the structure to open in the event of spring flooding.
The work on the bridge was initially expedited and in September 2012, Ruth Eden, director of structures with Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation (MIT), told the Winnipeg Free Press the bridge was expected to cost between $4 million and $5 million.
According to the latest government statement, that price doubled.
"At this time, we expect the total cost for this new bridge to be around $10 million," the statement read.
The province refused comment when the Sun requested an interview in relation to the overrun and didn’t provide any reason.
According to Shirley Kernaghan, the head of the 251 Bridge Committee, the contracting company requested MIT to allow construction on the bridge to continue before flood season started by allowing them to haul concrete to the site in March 2013 despite provincially mandated weight restrictions on local roads during flood season.
Kernaghan said the company, SureSpan Group of Vancouver, developed and tested an alternative method which would have kept axial loading to the 65 per cent that the general public must comply with, but it was also rejected by MIT.
Once the high water came, it did not recede until the end of July, according to Kernaghan, and a total of 16 weeks were lost, pushing the expected November 2013 opening.
Brandon-Souris Conservative MP and former Arthur-Virden MLA Larry Maguire, who worked to get the project started, doesn’t know why the costs ballooned, but suggested it could have been the delay.
"I don’t know why it’s so high," Maguire said. "It’s a three-span bridge."
After more than 30 months of 40-minute-long detours for residents on both sides of the Souris River, Waskada Mayor Gary Williams said he’s just glad it’s done.
"Today, we’ve made it this far and everybody is just looking forward to moving ahead and enjoying it."
Current MLA Doyle Piwniuk said, "We have a huge agriculture-based economy and oil economy and it’s so important to have that flow of traffic in that community,"
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition April 14, 2014