We’ve heard the warnings for long enough, and now the stark reality hits. It’s never good planning to put off maintenance. A report on the state of bridges in Nova Scotia reveals that of the province’s 4,310 bridges, 391 of those inspected have serious damage.
That presents quite a dilemma in a province with such severe budgetary limitations. Even what would ordinarily be deemed mandatory capital projects – the repair, or replacement in some cases – with that many identified as having problems, a solution is out of grasp.
Much like the many deteriorating roads in the province, many of these bridges have been on the project list for some time. Continuing to put off upgrades would seem the least wise course, yet might prove inevitable for all but the most crucial spans.
It’s gotten to the point where some that aren’t seeing much use will need to be closed.
A small point of reassurance: chief highway engineer Bruce Fitzner said crossings remain safe. Those that are in too deteriorated a state are closed, and others have a lower maximum weight imposed.
Still, it’s not hard to see the limitations there – on commercial loads and the ability to accommodate business.
Fitzner also pointed out that a rigorous painting program of metal parts would slow deterioration due to oxidation. Again, there’s much to be said for regular maintenance.
A federal infrastructure fund in place will see some help in this regard. But it’s not hard to see that in the long haul some tough decisions will have to be made.
We will inevitably need to concentrate on those that are vital links for major arteries in the province. If Nova Scotia wants to consider itself open for business, and open to visitors, these bridges, roads and other infrastructure are, in the most practical terms, what keeps the province open. Planners will need to tackle this and establish a long-term strategy for upgrades or we risk seeing economic prospects slipping away even further.