Bailey bridge closure reignites debate

The bailey bridge connecting New Westminster to Coquitlam was closed in February 2013 after structural engineers found splits in two of its significant trusses.  - TRI-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO
The bailey bridge connecting New Westminster to Coquitlam was closed in February 2013 after structural engineers found splits in two of its significant trusses.
— image credit: TRI-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO

The closure Monday of the one-lane Braid Street Bailey bridge connecting New Westminster and Coquitlam is reigniting the debate over the future of the crossing.

Engineers discovered cracks in the structure during a routine maintenance inspection on Sunday, making it the second time in 12-months the bridge has been closed for repairs.

Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart told The Tri-City News that he has not been told how long it will take for the bridge to re-open, but said the issue highlights the urgency of replacing the structure.

"We have used up a whole year since this problem first came to light last March," he said. "New Westminster has stalled and it is really getting frustrating and it is going to get expensive for these communities."

Coquitlam has been pushing for a temporary two-lane bridge that would cost $1.7 million and last until a permanent overpass connecting the two communities can be built. New Westminster has opposed building a new bridge over concerns it will push more traffic into an already congested neighbourhood.

The issue is currently before a provincial arbitrator and Stewart said he expected a ruling on the matter by April.

Last year, when the bridge underwent a similar inspection for the first time since 2007, engineers discovered splits in two of its trusses. The damage was likely caused by all the heavy truck traffic that regularly uses the bridge said Jim Lowrie, the New Westminster's chief engineer.

That discovery and subsequent repairs caused the bridge to be shut down for two weeks. When it reopened, the maximum load limit it was allowed to carry was reduced to 15 tonnes from the manufacturer's recommended limit of 48 tonnes. That eliminated all heavy trucks from using the bridge.

-with files from Black Press

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