Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/9/2011 (3594 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Citizens in Manitoba’s Arthur-Virden constituency are rightfully annoyed that a flood-damaged bridge located between Waskada and Coulter has not been repaired — and may not be repaired for years.
As the Sun reported on Wednesday, about 200 people attended a rally at the site of the bridge which spans the Souris River on Highway 251. The bridge, located about 11 kilometres from Waskada and two and a half kilometres from Coulter, was closed early this summer when the flood waters of the Souris River partially eroded the roadbed and the pavement, creating a buckle in the middle of the structure, making it unusable.
Once flood waters receded, department officials pledged at the time to begin its repair, but the bridge has remained closed to vehicle traffic, while pedestrians can cross at their own risk.
In the months since the flood ended, locals have now been told by provincial department officials that replacing the bridge may take anywhere from two to four years. This in spite of a recent provincial announcement from the government that it will advance 60 per cent of the road repair costs or $100,000 from disaster financial assistance claims, whichever is greater, and improve a $5-per-capita cap on a municipal cost-sharing program.
The closure of the bridge has caused numerous headaches for area residents. Commuter traffic and school buses have been forced to detour on a shared dirt road with farm machinery and heavy oil trucks. Alternatively, people in the area must travel all the way north to Melita and then head back south.
Rally organizer Shirley Kernaghan said they want the party that forms government to address this issue as soon as possible.
“We’re not asking for the moon here,” she said. “With the amount of money that goes out of these three municipalities (because of the oil industry), we should be able to get some brought back into it to fix this bridge.”
We agree. It shouldn’t take two to four years to fix a bridge — the timeline presented by the highways department sounds preposterous.
But if that is the case and the government refuses to fast-track repairs to the bridge, the province does need to step up with a temporary solution such as the installation of a so-called “Bailey Bridge,” which could be set up quite quickly this fall.
While Arthur-Virden candidates for the NDP, Progressive Conservatives and Liberal parties all said they would work to push for improvements and repairs to the bridge, Arthur-Virden NDP candidate Garry Draper pointed out that dozens of bridges across southern Manitoba failed during the flood.
He also said that it would be wrong to accuse the NDP government of neglecting rural Manitoba.
That is debatable — on many fronts — but let’s stick to the flooding issue at hand. Residents were told the bridge would be fixed right away, and now they’re getting told something else.
We understand that road repairs in the flood zone will take time, and considerable resources. But the provincial NDP has paid a lot of attention to flooded property owners in the Interlake region, and to the communities of Portage la Prairie and Brandon in the course of this election.
And that’s not really surprising as the province tries to calm the widespread anger felt by flood-stricken folks around Lake Manitoba. Much like Brandon West and Brandon East, the Interlake riding is in play, and NDP Leader Greg Selinger is highly aware of it.
The fact that the NDP won’t likely gain an MLA in Arthur-Virden, a region that has long been held by a Tory, means that the government can afford to ignore the concerns of its citizens.
The southwestern corner of Manitoba has often been shunted aside by the provincial NDP over the years, and in the case of this bridge it seems to have happened again.