Recent bridge collapses caused by trucks

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HALIFAX, N.S. — Transportation Minister Ron Russell is pointing the finger to big trucks in explaining collapsed bridges in Nova Scotia over the last two years.

Russell says collapses were due to collisions or buckling under the weight of big trucks.

His department is still investigating the latest collapse – an 80-year-old steel truss bridge near Tatamagouche that couldn’t hold a minivan last week.

The driver was sent crashing to the stream below the Waughs River Bridge. He suffered a dislocated shoulder and a severe cut to his mouth.

Russell says the cause of the latest collapse is still unknown, but good reasons exist for some of the past failures.

"Those types of bridges, if they get whacked by a vehicle, they’re quite liable to fall down because they’re old bridges," he told local media.

A 1996 report shows the average bridge in Nova Scotia was 51 years old while the average in Canada was 23.

Since 2000, Nova Scotia has witnessed the collapse of several bridges with the Tatamagouche bridge being at least the fourth.

In January, the 60-year-old Soley Factory Road Bridge in Colchester County collapsed under a snow plow. Russell says the plow had hit the bridge with its blade.

In November 2000, a bridge in Howie Centre near Sydney fell down in heavy rainfall just before a school bus crossed.

Four months prior to that, a bridge over the Medway River in Queens County collapsed under a pulp truck.

Russell says the province’s bridges are maintained on a regular schedule and get frequent inspections to ensure they’re safe. The province replaces spans when necessary, but that can cost between $800,000 and $1.5 million per bridge.

Nova Scotia has 3,540 highway bridges.

Liberal MLA Don Downe says local residents should alert the Transportation Department if they think a local bridge is unsafe. He told local media, some of the older structures are more vulnerable to accidents because they suffer from fatigue and aren’t designed to take dings from heavy trucks.

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