By Ryan McKenna, The Canadian Press
REGINA — The Saskatchewan municipality where a newly built bridge collapsed hours after opening had been approved for $750,000 in provincial funding to go toward construction, but opted for a less expensive design, a rural leader says.
The Dyck Memorial Bridge in the Rural Municipality of Clayton opened to traffic Sept. 14, but collapsed into the Swan River later that day. No one was hurt and the contractor is responsible for repairs.
The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities said Tuesday that Clayton applied last fall for funding through the province’s municipal roads program which the association administers. The RM was primarily approved in January by a project management board.
Over the next several months, SARM requested engineering criteria from Clayton, but didn’t received it, said executive director Jay Meyer. Clayton was given a week-long extension to July 20, but the information still didn’t come in, he said.
The total cost of the rural bridge if it had been built through the municipal road program was $1.1 million. The maximum the program could allocate was $750,000, which left Clayton on the hook for $350,000.
“They felt the bridge that fell under the program was too expensive,” Meyer said Tuesday.
In a Sept. 24 interview, Clayton Reeve Duane Hicks said the cost for his municipality to independently replace the bridge through builder Can-Struct Systems Inc. was about $340,000.
Clayton administrator Kelly Rea declined an interview request on Tuesday.
In a video posted on YouTube from SARM’s annual convention in March, Rea said she had concerns with the roads program and with criteria for bridge repairs.
She said when Clayton was approved for funding, only one specific bridge was recommended by the program.
“This bridge is above our needs. We do not need this bridge,” Rea said as she asked government for a policy change giving municipalities more than one option.
The highways minister at the time, David Marit, responded by saying he would look at the program criteria and alternatives around bridges. He acknowledged the costs could be “quite onerous” on municipalities.
Ministry of Highways spokesman Doug Wakabayashi said Clayton wanted to build the bridge by screwing piles into the ground — a technique used when building a deck — instead of concrete or wood piles normally used in bridge construction.
The province doesn’t have any plans to change the way bridge construction is funded, he added.
“Our ministry has been pretty consistent that any bridge design that is funded through (the roads program) it has to be shown to be safe,” Wakabayashi said. “And that’s really something that can’t change.”
SARM president Ray Orb said, while bridges under the municipal roads program are more expensive, they’re also safe.
“We’ve never had a bridge that has been designed through the … program that has ever collapsed that we know of, anyway,” he said.
Meyer said bridges built through his organization follow criteria laid out by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Highways.
Hicks previously said the bridge was built to Canadian safety standards, though no geotechnical investigation was performed on the riverbed under the bridge before it was built.
He said the municipality wanted to get the bridge built in time for harvest and it took four to five weeks to complete.
Orb said that had the municipality gone with the provincial funding for the bridge, it would have been built by now.
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