Cape Breton bridge closure slowing emergency and mail services

·2 min read
A wooden bridge on Route 216 in Benacadie, N.S., was closed Wednesday morning.  (George Mortimer - image credit)
A wooden bridge on Route 216 in Benacadie, N.S., was closed Wednesday morning. (George Mortimer - image credit)

A bridge in Benacadie, N.S., between Eskasoni and Christmas Island was closed Wednesday morning after two timber supports underneath the decking cracked.

A spokesperson for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality said the Christmas Island Volunteer Fire Department attended the bridge on Route 216 around 1 p.m.

People travelling between the two communities will face a long detour due to the bridge failure. Some residents say the bridge closure is not only inconvenient, it's also a safety concern.

Rod Farrell is a mail carrier in Benacadie. He lives about 1.5 kilometres from the bridge and crosses it daily on his mail route.

He crossed it twice on the day it was closed. He examined it and realized it was not safe to drive over.

George Mortimer
George Mortimer

"Anybody that came close to the bridge, they'd realize very clearly that it had to be closed," he said.

Farrell said a Department of Public Works employee arrived and blocked traffic on both sides. Engineers later determined it should be closed.

"No one wanted anybody to go through the bridge that was structurally compromised," Farrell said.

He said the closure will affect mail service in the area. "Fifteen permanent residents and another four summertime residents will not be getting regular mail service," Farrell said.

Safety concern

George Mortimer
George Mortimer

While the community of Eskasoni is not completely cut off due to the bridge failure, Route 216 is a key thruway.

"That's the access road to go to the highway when we leave Cape Breton or go to Whycocomagh or Wagmatcook," said Chief Leroy Denny of Eskasoni.

He said it's not just the bridge that needs repairs.

"The whole road from Christmas Island to Benacadie, it's an awful, treacherous road. For 11 kilometres that road is hell. Along with the bridge, they need to fix it," Denny said.

Denny said community members have told local MLA Keith Bain about the poor condition of Route 216 and the bridge.

Christina Lamey, communications officer at the CBRM, said the municipality's emergency response team assessed the scene. They are currently working on alternate routes for fire and emergency services.

"From an emergency response perspective, you have to always know what routes there are to get to emergency situations," Lamey said. "So the closure of that road changes some of the response for emergency services."

No official detour

The Department of Public Works said in a statement that detour planning is currently underway.

Some locals are taking an unofficial detour up a gravel mountain road, but Farrell said that route is not suitable for all vehicles. "It's quite rough in places," he said.

He said highway workers are currently trying to groom that road so it is a suitable alternative for a detour.

It is estimated that the bridge may be closed for about six weeks. The department said the bridge was last inspected in November 2021.

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