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60-year-old bridge collapses

TRURO, N.S. -- On Saturday a snowplow crew may have been the victim of Nova Scotia's infrastructure deficit when a...

TRURO, N.S. — On Saturday a snowplow crew may have been the victim of Nova Scotia’s infrastructure deficit when a bridge collapsed in Colchester County.

The driver was fine, but his passenger suffered broken ribs after the back end of the truck fell four metres into the Debert River, 10km west of Truro.

The single-lane Soley Factory Road Bridge was built out of wood and steel 60 years ago. Debert resident Arthur Cooke says a school bus passed over the span regularly, and the accident could have been much worse.

He adds the collapse is proof of government neglect of the province’s highways.

“All they talk about is a balanced budget. How many people are going to die from a balanced budget?” he says.

Transportation Minister Ron Russell says his department hasn’t yet learned the cause of the collapse. Overweight vehicles and damage from previous unreported collisions sometimes cause bridges to fail, the department points out.

The average bridge in Canada is 23 years old, while the Nova Scotia average is 51. Russell admits the province has been spending too little on highway maintenance for years, but insists that doesn’t mean bridges are unsafe.

“We do have a fairly rigorous inspection program,” Russell says. “If our bridges are found to be wanting in any way, they’re repaired.”

The Transportation Department released a report on Nova Scotia’s infrastructure deficit last spring detailing growing problems with the province’s roads after years of fiscal restraint. It recommended spending $560 million on bridges over the next decade. This year, the government budgeted just $10 million.

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