5-year detour finally ends as new bridge opens over Mira River, Cape Breton

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Mira Gut resident Diana MacKinnon-Furlong says the opening of the bridge reconnects a community that was divided for five years.  (Submitted by Diana MacKinnon-Furlong - image credit)
Mira Gut resident Diana MacKinnon-Furlong says the opening of the bridge reconnects a community that was divided for five years. (Submitted by Diana MacKinnon-Furlong - image credit)

A Cape Breton, N.S., community gathered today to celebrate the official opening of a new truss bridge over the Mira River that will reconnect residents in Mira Gut after a five-year detour divided communities along the scenic coast.

Traffic was permitted to drive across the new 80-metre truss bridge last weekend, ending a major disruption in Cape Breton's road network.

Brain Comer, MLA for Cape Breton East, officially opened the bridge in a ceremony on Friday on behalf of Kim Masland, the minister of Public Works.

Comer heard positive community feedback.

"It's a vital piece of infrastructure in terms of connectivity and keeping the community connected," Comer said. "It's also a significant factor for tourism as well."

Submitted by Diana MacKinnon-Furlong
Submitted by Diana MacKinnon-Furlong

Reconnecting coastal communities

Amanda McDougall, mayor of Cape Breton Regional Municipality, was thrilled to see the bridge reopen.

"My family's from Main-a-Dieu and we live in Glace Bay," McDougall said. "We could not wait to take the Marconi Trail and go home."

The Marconi Trail is a scenic roadway that runs from Louisbourg to Glace Bay along the island's eastern coast.

"From a community safety perspective, it is so imperative that we have these pieces of community infrastructure safely in place," McDougall said.

Old bridge unsafe

The province deemed the bridge unsafe in summer 2017 and it was torn down in November of that year.

For five years, Mira Bay Drive had been impassable along the coast. Cars were rerouted along Hornes or Brickyard roads, an approximate 20-kilometre detour.

Gary Mansfield/CBC
Gary Mansfield/CBC

Before the closure, approximately 1,000 vehicles crossed the bridge daily, according to the Department of Public Works.

Diana MacKinnon-Furlong is a resident of Mira Gut. She was thrilled to see the project completed.

"At one time they were considering not even replacing the bridge," MacKinnon-Furlong said. "With some lobbying, letter-writing, and collaborative efforts, we finally got our bridge."

The $6.525 million truss bridge features a 6.5-metre vertical clearance to accommodate boats. It features a sidewalk, which can be used by cyclists, walkers and runners.

"We are a community that had been divided for a little over five years now," she said. "It's nice symbolism to have a community get together for the official opening."

The original bridge was a swing bridge that opened to accommodate boats, and disrupted the flow of road traffic. Bob Martell was the bridge custodian for more than 36 years.

He was thrilled to see a new bridge that will provide safe travel. He had the honour of cutting the ribbon for the new bridge.

Representatives from three levels of government were in attendance, including Mike Kelloway, MP Cape Breton-Canso.

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