News

Long Point bridge: County scrambles to ensure public safety

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

The Long Point Causeway bridge has been reduced to one lane.  MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER

The Long Point Causeway bridge has been reduced to one lane. MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER

LONG POINT - 

The integrity of a major bridge on the Long Point Causeway has been called into question on the eve of the first long weekend of the summer season.

Norfolk public works director Lee Robinson broke the news to Norfolk council Tuesday.

The bridge in question spans a waterway near George Lane that connects the Big Creek Marsh with Long Point Bay. Robinson said the wooden piers supporting the bridge appear to be fine but the deck badly deteriorated over the winter.

An engineer has inspected the situation and has recommended that traffic on the bridge be reduced to a single lane.

Pylons were placed Tuesday narrowing the lanes over the bridge to reduce traffic on the most vulnerable spots. Plans were to install portable stop lights at the scene Wednesday reducing traffic to a single lane.

“Rest assured that staff are doing everything possible to ensure that the bridge is able to remain open,” Robinson said in an email Wednesday.

Robinson described the situation as “fluid” and subject to re-evaluation.

News of the bridge’s condition represents a serious headache for the county. Hundreds of Long Point property owners were planning to open their cottages this weekend. The 3.2-kilometre causeway between Port Rowan and Long Point is the only road access into the community.

If the bridge failed, Norfolk County would have no way of getting emergency services in and out of Long Point by road. In her email, Robinson said Norfolk Fire & Rescue moved firefighting equipment into Long Point Tuesday “just in case.”

Port Rowan Coun. Noel Haydt isn’t happy with the news. He left Tuesday’s council meeting dreading the emails and phone calls he expects to receive. The causeway is scheduled for a rebuild this summer but the deteriorating bridge wasn’t slated for repairs until 2024.

“The bridge has been falling apart for years,” Haydt said. “But when they paved Erie Boulevard (in Long Point) last summer, that was its death warrant. All the trucks going over it pounded it to pieces.

“This is going to make for a busy weekend. Not so much for Long Point, but for me.”

Robinson disputed Haydt’s assessment that heavy truck traffic is to blame. Robinson said the bridge’s major problem is age.

Norfolk is keeping the Long Point Ratepayers Association (LPRA) apprised of developments. The association, in turn, is passing new information to members as it arises.

LPRA president Eric Gunnell says his membership is not impressed with the situation.

Long Point cottagers pay some of the highest property taxes in Norfolk but feel neglected and underserviced. Gunnell is surprised bridge repairs were scheduled six years into the future when the structure needs attention now.

“For them to defer it, they had to have some engineering to justify that,” Gunnell said Wednesday. “It’s a shock that the bridge is no longer acceptable.

“We in Long Point don’t feel like we’re getting a fair shake. The repaving on Erie Boulevard last year – that was 10 years overdue. The ratepayers association asks that this situation be resolved immediately.”

Norfolk can deal relatively quickly with the situation if the only problem is the deck. Norfolk can award emergency repair work to a qualified contractor without going through a lengthy tendering process.

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com