At the last regular meeting on September 12, The Nation council received a delegation from citizens of the municipality regarding the proposed narrowing of Touchette Bridge. According to the municipality, the existing trusses on the bridge cannot support the weight of two lanes, as vehicles are now much heavier than when the bridge was first constructed. Alternative deck types were considered, but this wouldn’t have significantly increased capacity.
The delegation, represented by Nicolas and Diane van de Laar, asked council to reconsider the narrowing of the bridge. They and several other farmers in the area rely on the bridge to transport farming equipment necessary to manage the land, but the van de Laars said they were neither warned nor consulted about the changes. If the bridge is narrowed according to the current plan, many pieces of farming equipment such as planters, tractors, combine harvesters, and many others would no longer be able to cross the bridge.
“If your plans remain the same, we will have to make major detours with all these machines,” they said during the meeting. “We would have to pass through the villages of Casselman and St-Albert with all these machines several times per week, if not per day. Casselman already has a traffic problem, and every time we will have to bring our machines down roads 500 and 900, it would only increase the risk of accidents and traffic jams.”
They added that the longer route would increase the wear on their tires, waste more gasoline, and cost precious time that is already impacted by the weather. All in all, a five-minute stretch of road would increase to an hour-long commute, they said.
Council acknowledged the issue and said that negotiations can be made regarding the width of the bridge. The current plan calls for a 16-foot-wide laneway, but depending on the placement of the railings, that could be expanded to 18.5 feet. The engineer from McIntosh Perry who explained the project cautioned that protecting the trusses is paramount, because if a truck crashed into a truss at any sort of speed, the bridge may collapse. He also said that consideration must be given to weight limits, as too much weight on one side or the other could also lead to a collapse.
There are a few options to increase the weight limit however, including additional load posting, changing the concrete curb heights, using lightweight concrete, and strengthening the existing bridge.
Council must wait for another engineering report before it can make a final decision.