For the last few months, there has been some uncertainty about the bridge at the north end of downtown Kentville, on Cornwallis Street.
With the land cleared east of the bridge near the river and a portion of the sidewalk recently closed off, there may be renewed hopes that the wheels are moving with the bridge and that change is on the horizon.
Those hopes, according to Kentville chief administrative officer Mark Phillips, are valid. Crews are setting the stage for serious steps to come, in the construction of a new bridge.
Eventually, the original bridge, a near century-old structure connecting downtown Kentville to Belcher Street and North Kentville, will be replaced and a new bridge will pass over the Cornwallis River to its immediate east.
“It’s been a long-standing project,” Phillips said. “Although there have been some delays, the bridge is underway itself. The heavy-duty work is about to start.”
The replacement bridge will be constructed to the east of the current one, Phillips said, noting there will be a period where there will be two bridges, side by side.
Before that point, there is much to do. Cranes will soon be changing the Kentville skyline this summer – and perhaps next. That, Phillips noted, is why a section of the crosswalk on the bridge has been shut down, so that nobody is under those cranes as they operate.
“We can’t have pedestrians in that area when they’re operating heavy machinery,” Phillips noted.
Before that point, however, crews are going to make some noise as they do the groundwork for the bridge.
The first step to the construction of the new bridge is to drive steel piles into the river bed and bank.
“There’s six to eight weeks of pile driving to be done, that supports the concrete abutments that the bridge will rest on,” Phillips said. “It’ll be a similar process to what people have seen going on in the Windsor overpass in the Falmouth area.”
The bridge is unique, compared to a lot of the other infrastructure in town, because it is provincially owned, and replacing it the province’s responsibility.
“The stakeholders in this are the Town of Kentville, the province and Dexter’s Construction, the assigned contractor,” Phillips said.
Good, necessary work takes time. Phillips said there are two potential timelines for the completion of the bridge, adding, “one is the best-case scenario and very ambitious, and the other is more realistic.”
The ambitious timeline will see the piles driven, concrete structures for the bridge completed, and road approaches realigned and repaved all at the end of the 2019 construction year.
“More realistically, the project will be finished in summer 2020,” Phillips said.
Phillips assured motorists using that bridge that the construction of the new bridge will have minimal impact on the day-to-day flow of vehicles. The existing bridge will remain in use until the new one is complete.
“It will probably just be the speed of traffic impacted, as opposed to the flow of traffic, or something like lanes being restricted,” Phillips said. “In the end, when the new bridge is complete, and the approaches are complete, it will be a transition to the new one and eventually the old one will be decommissioned.”
INSIDE THE BRIDGE
A bit of a lull in progress toward the new bridge had more to do with what’s inside the old bridge than anything else.
Phillips explained that for the last few months, the town has been occupied with a changeover of telecommunications infrastructure running in conduits along and through the bridge.
“The existing bridge has a lot of infrastructure already in place, supporting telecommunication,” Phillips said. “So that’s quite a lengthy process. The switchover, especially with fiber, is complex.”
Part of the reason for this was a loop of switching over the infrastructure and testing it, to make sure it still works, once moved.
“It was switch over, test, switch over, test, over and over, all to minimize impact on customers,” Phillips said. “With Valley Regional Hospital being a primary customer, those aren’t operations we can afford a break in.”
Telecommunication lines are not the only lines affected by the process of building a new bridge. Another reason there has been a delay was the need for the realignment of power lines and poles that will be affected by the placement of a new bridge.
Once all those lines are in the right place, Phillips said the town will have a bit of work to do, replacing water supply and other underground infrastructure.
“Some of that is upgrades and repairs, and some of it is just safeguarding for the construction phases,” Phillips said. “We don’t want to dig up any asphalt after the work is done on the bridge – we’re trying to future proof some of our underground infrastructure. It’s not a major overhaul.”