By Eric Bourque
With spectators looking on from both sides – the Sluice Point side and the Surette’s Island side – the big span of the Indian Sluice Bridge was removed Wednesday afternoon.
The 300-foot middle span was put on a couple of barges and taken a short distance away to a spot on the mainland.
An official with the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal said the operation seemed to go well.
“There’s a bit more wind than they would have liked,” said Will Crocker, bridge maintenance engineer with the department. “Luckily, not a huge amount of cross-sectional area to grab the truss. The biggest thing is any currents and waves that would have affected the barges, but that wasn’t a big problem.”
There had been much speculation about when this event would take place, many local residents wanting to be on hand when it did.
Removal of the middle span was widely expected to be the highlight of the final chapter in the history of the 105-year-old bridge.
For many years, local residents -- in particular people living on Surette's Island and Morris Island, as well as in Sluice Point -- had been calling for a new bridge, saying they were concerned about the safety of the old one.
Construction of a new, two-lane bridge began in the winter of 2013. It opened in June and grand opening celebrations were held June 28. The new structure replaces a one-lane bridge that opened in 1909.
“It’s kind of bittersweet, I guess,” Crocker said, referring to how some people might feel about seeing the old bridge go. The province said the bridge was safe, but residents weren’t so sure. In the end, the province decided it made more sense to build a new bridge than to keep fixing the old one.
Said Crocker, “From the department’s standpoint, trying to maintain something like that, anytime we had to do maintenance or inspections on the bridge, you had to close it, which is not only an inconvenience to the residents, but it just makes every job that much more time-consuming and difficult to complete.”
Once removed and hauled away to an area near the Sluice Point wharf, the plan was to tip the span onto its side, using an excavator pulling on a cable attached to the span.
In the fall of 2012 the $13.5-million contract for the Indian Sluice Bridge replacement was awarded to Dexter Construction. The contract included removal of the old bridge.