Ross River footbridge collapse imminent

The Ross River bridge is at imminent risk of collapse. The 70-year-old walkway over the Pelly River has sustained much more significant damage than was previously thought, according to an engineering report.

The Ross River bridge is at imminent risk of collapse.

The 70-year-old walkway over the Pelly River has sustained much more significant damage than was previously thought, according to an engineering report.

“They showed us pictures and video of the amount of damage on the crossbeam, which is supporting the weight of the bridge,” said Brian Ladue, chief of the Ross River Dena Council. “It’s severely cracked. If it was to snow, a little bit of wet snow with that extra weight, it would cause the bridge to collapse.”

The bridge is located just upstream from the ferry crossing. Operations were suspended Sunday because of the risk of the bridge collapsing onto the ferry.

 

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That left an estimated 40 or 50 people stranded on the North Canol with no way to get back.

The RCMP began ferrying people across in a boat on Monday evening, said Kendra Black, a spokesperson for Highways and Public Works, on Tuesday.

On Tuesday staff from Community Services took over that role, she said.

And the ferry is also back up and running, in a limited way.

From now until October 10, the ferry will make crossings at 9 a.m. and at 5 p.m. every day under restricted conditions, said Black.

The ferry will not take passengers, only vehicles. Members of the public may cross in the Community Services boat.

Only two crew members will travel in the ferry, an operator and a spotter, said Black.

There will be a second spotter watching from the ground.

And a rescue boat will travel with the ferry during crossings, said Black.

“Should there be any movement of the bridge at any time during the crossing, the operators will disembark the ferry to the rescue boat.”

Crossings will be cancelled if conditions are not favourable, said Black.

October 10 is the scheduled end date for ferry service for the season.

The bridge was chained off and closed to the public in August of 2012.

But the public continued to use the bridge to access the other side of the river, said Chief Ladue.

“Up to this point, really we had no idea how severely damaged the bridge was. And so people were just using it, figuring it wasn’t damaged that much.”

Now, stairs to the bridge have been removed to prevent the public from using it.

“We really depend on that bridge,” said Ladue. “It’s been a part of the community for 70 years. A lot of our members go across the river. They have cabins just down the road here.”

Not having that access, especially between when ferry service stops and the ice freezes, “is going to have a huge impact,” said Ladue.

He will host a community meeting to discuss the issue within the next week or so, he said.

Kevin Barr, the NDP’s critic for community services, wants to know why it took so long to figure out that the bridge was so unsafe, he said.

“This bridge has been in disarray for quite some time, and they haven’t acted on it.”

He asked the Yukon Party in April why the bridge had been allowed to fall into disrepair.

Elaine Taylor, then minister of Community Services, responded.

“Community Services is looking at options for repairs or replacement of the bridge structure and have undertaken the assessment services of an engineering firm as well,” said Taylor. “In the meantime, we have put up a caution sign, and a chain has been installed just to ensure that individuals are aware of the issues with respect to the current state of the bridge.”

In June, the government announced $1.1 million towards repairing the bridge, with the work to be completed by the end of the year.

But the start date for the engineering consultant contract wasn’t until July 23, according to the government’s contract registry.

“How come we’re still waiting? It’s October first,” said Barr.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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