Touchette bridge is a few kilometres south-west of Casselman on route 650. (Photo: retrieved from Google Maps).

Initial bridge assessment recommends another assessment

At its council meeting on April 10, The Nation spent an hour discussing repairs to Touchette bridge on route 650 outside Casselman.

Harold Kleywegt, an engineer with Keystone Bridge Management, presented an initial assessment of the bridge’s present state; one of the conclusions was that it will need “major capital repairs within five years.”

The stringers, part of the bridge’s floor system, are the most concerning right now. Out of 72, three of them have holes due to corrosion and “should be prioritized for replacement” with another potential 10 that could be added to that list.

But that can’t be known for sure without another assessment, said Kleywegt.

In addition to the stringers, the edges of the floor system are “very vulnerable.” Realistically, that would only cause an issue if two loaded trucks were to pass each other at the same time.

To mitigate that possibility, Kleywegt recommended reducing the bridge, built in 1950, to one-lane to force traffic to the stronger centre, saying it was the “least risky and best way to go.”

Council debated the option, suggesting a metal guardrail or adding a cement curb, but the idea was quickly dismissed when Kleywegt mentioned a possible $30,000-$40,000 price tag. He didn’t say what that number was based on, but it was enough to deter council from pursuing the lane reduction idea.

Finally, it decided on posting weight reduction signage—a much cheaper option—bringing the maximum weight allowed on the bridge to 25 tonnes.

At least that will alleviate funds for the “intensive investigation” that’s desperately needed, according to Kleywegt.

Mayor St. Amour said that study is needed before beginning on any major repairs.

“Nation municipality  needs to start thinking about making some significant repairs to this bridge and budgeting accordingly,” said Kleywegt. He added a “very preliminary estimate” shows it would cost between $1.5 million and $2 million to put a new floor system and replace the deck—which has an estimated 30 years of life left in it. According to Kleywegt, that figure is still only one-third of the total replacement cost of the bridge.

“Nothing on this bridge is going to be cheap,” said Kleywegt during his presentation. Apparently, that includes the process before even starting the repairs.