A bridge to nowhere… for some

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While constructing their new home on Koshlong Lake, Frances and Ken Hill figured if there were any problems, they’d cross that bridge when they came to it.

Unfortunately for them, it turns out the bridge is the problem.

As reported in today’s front-page story, many residents surrounding Koshlong Lake have been left stranded, quite literally, after a recent Dysart et al bylaw change implemented weight limits on the Koshlong Lake Road bridge. This comes after an engineering firm carried out a bi-annual study of the site in October, finding it’s not up to par with modern safety standards.

The bridge was built in 1960 and wasn’t designed to carry the kind of weight loads it was seeing, according to Rob Camelon, the township’s public works director. He went on to tell council at a Dec. 13 meeting that he believes this is more an issue of liability than safety.

Since then, the bridge has seen new posted weight limits of 16 tons for single-unit vehicles, 29 tons for two-unit vehicles, and 42 tons for three-unit vehicles. These limits are in place for the next five years.

This restricts the type of vehicles that can now cross the bridge. Think the kind of heavy-duty trucks used by the likes of Hydro One, propane suppliers, contractors, and moving companies. Camelon said the township had secured an exemption that would allow the local fire department’s pumper trucks to cross the bridge in the event of an emergency.

That’s all well and good, but what about people such as the Hills, who have seen construction on their new home come to a grinding halt? What of the people who rely on propane to heat their home? What are they to do right now if they run out?

Likely more of a coincidence than a concerted, two-hour effort, but Dysart council was quick to offer a solution. By the end of Tuesday’s meeting, they had arranged to purchase a new temporary bridge that they plan to install over the existing structure. The caveat – mayor Murray Fearrey thinks it will take about a month to install.

Considering Dysart has known about this for at least a couple of months, there should have been a better plan in place. This new temporary bridge should have been secured prior to reducing the weight limits, so that people such as the Hills weren’t affected.

One of the main gripes the Hills and Laurie Bruce, speaking on behalf of the Koshlong Lake Association, had, though, was they only learned about these changes through third parties. They claim there was zero communication from the township. This is an oddity considering the impact this was always going to have.

Camelon told council in December that he would be seeking to replace the bridge in 2024. He also warned that this kind of situation is likely to come up again, since the township has several 60-plus-year-old bridges within its borders.

We encourage council to start planning for these now to avoid further complications down the road.