Gloria Stewart can see what almost wiped out her business by simply standing on the rural road that runs past her 11-unit Pied Piper Motel and looking due north.
There's a gap in the road where there used to be a metal and concrete bridge that took Nova Scotia Highway 2 over the Nappan River, a direct link between the towns of Amherst and Springhill.
The bridge was closed in December 2017 over safety concerns, and then removed the next summer.
"Traffic just stopped," said Stewart, adding: "We do still get customers, but they find us accidentally."
Finally, after two years, traffic is expected to return next week when the installation of a replacement bridge is complete. While waiting this long has seemed like forever to Stewart, Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines suggests it wasn't out of the ordinary.
"I think it's too long, but it's what we have to put up with it seems like," Hines told reporters last week. "I don't think it was anything exceptional, and in this particular situation and for a bridge of that magnitude."
It was a "very significant structure," he said. The province needed to properly plan for a replacement, he said, and bridges can be expensive.
The Nova Scotia government hired a U.S.-based company with operations in Moncton, N.B., to do the work. Timber Restoration Services bid $2,949,999.32 to get the job.
Dan Tingley, senior timber structures engineer for the company, said a new bridge — this one wooden — should be lifted into place on Saturday and traffic is expected to resume by Dec. 11.
"This is the first timber bridge build on an old, existing substructure that we've built for the province of Nova Scotia," said Tingley, who has been supervising the assembly of the bridge components at a site just down the road from the Pied Piper Motel.
The company is able to use the existing wooden pilings because they are in such good shape, he said, and the wooden structure is one third the weight of the old steel bridge.
The materials used for the new bridge were prefabricated and pre-drilled, and every piece was is then oil-treated to prevent rot. It's due to last 100 years.
Tingley expects it to last longer than the steel and concrete structure it is replacing. That's because the old bridge was "in the highest embedded and exposed corrosion zone" in Canada.
"Steel just does not do well in those environments," he said.
Stewart said she managed to hang on over the last two years, but just barely. She hopes her business can rebound after two years of almost no visitors.
"Whatever I had saved two years ago it was spent trying to get some advertising out and signs made," she said. "It's just been bad."
This isn't the only bridge in the province that is awaiting replacement. The following bridges are currently closed:
- Dillman's Bridge in Meaghers Grant is also closed, no date yet for replacement.
- Springville Bridge in Pictou County was closed in 2018 and is due to be replaced in 2020-21.
- Cranton Bridge in Margaree Forks is being replaced now and is expected to be in service shortly.
The Malagash Station Road bridge is also closed but will not be replaced as the province deems that the alternate route is not very long.
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