‘They have to go back to the table’

LENNOX PASSAGE, N.S. — The Progressive Conservative MLA for Cape Breton-Richmond says she’s concerned over the fate of the Lennox Passage bridge after a tender call for its repair attracted only one interested party whose bid she believes was significantly over the amount budgeted for the work.

The tender was issued last month for the repair of the bridge linking Isle Madame to Cape Breton, which has had to be welded shut and won’t open to boaters this season.

The bridge is a four-span, 98.5-metre bascule bridge with two concrete spans, a counterweight span and a steel bascule span. This bridge is located on Route 320, between Isle Madame and Cape Breton Island in Richmond County.

A tender issued to fix the Lennox Passage, the lift bridge between Isle Madame and Cape Breton which has been welded shut for the season, attracted only one bid, which is believed to have been significantly overbudget.

“They have to go back to the table,” MLA Alana Paon said in an interview, after raising the issue in question period. “The minister has indicated to me he has to speak with staff to talk to them about why there has been such a disparity with the amount that was estimated by the department and allocated and to the amount that came in from the one bidder.”

There was $2 million allocated to the project this fiscal year and $900,000 from the next fiscal year for the project, in the hopes of having it completed by June 30, 2019.

Paon said it’s her understanding the bid came in almost double what was budgeted.

“I’m very concerned regarding what’s going to happen with that project,” she said. “I’m going to continue to fight to make certain that that bridge is not just fixed but reopened. My greatest concern right now is that we make certain that we have a bridge that is back in place in the same in which it was built and doing the same job that it was originally meant to do. We need a bridge that opens, we do not need a bridge that is stationary.”

Historically, the span has opened, Paon said, originally as a swing bridge and more recently the lift bridge, which dates back to the 1970s.

“Traditionally this has been a waterway going through for fishing vessels, for tourism vessels such as sailing ships,” she said. “We lost a great deal of tourism traffic this year because they did not want to reroute around Isle Madame.”

There is an alternate route for boaters around Isle Madame, but Paon noted that adds a full day to a voyage for a sailboat, if the wind is in the boater’s favour.

Paon has been very critical of what she has called a lack of preventative maintenance on the bridge over the years and has noted that it’s been on the repair list since 2012 but was regularly deferred.

“The problem here is the fact that they have not done their due diligence with preventative maintenance on this bridge for years and years and years and it’s gotten to the point of such poor maintenance that it’s costing taxpayers at the end of the day a fortune to restore a bridge that should have been properly maintained the entire time,” she said.

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