A member of the Friends of the Andrewsville Bridge is up in arms after several incidents involving overweight vehicles crossing the bridge last week. Jane Anne McIntyre lives in Andrewsville, and says she witnessed two accidents last week where trucks drove over the bridge, ignoring the signage and breaking the height barrier that is meant to keep trucks like them off the bridge. “We have been trying to save the bridge and keep heavy trucks off it,” Jane Anne says, clearly exasperated with the situation. “We have a barrier and signage up, but it is still being smashed and crashed.”
The two incidents last week are indicative of the higher amount of traffic on the bridge due to the closing of the swing bridge in Burritts Rapids, which is being renovated. “When Burritts Rapids is closed, they all come here because it is the next closest crossing,” Jane Anne says. “I’ve seen buses, cube vans and semi-trailer trucks [using the bridge].”
Jane Anne says she has even gone as far as to stop a truck driver carrying cattle, before he crossed the bridge, pointing out the signs and the barrier ahead. She says the driver blamed his GPS for taking him on that route, which didn’t take into consideration the 5-tonne weight and 2.4m height restrictions on the bridge. “I’d like to gather up every GPS and throw them under the bridge,” she says.
It is no wonder that Jane Anne is distressed by the situation. In 2007, the bridge was almost closed because of disrepair. Since then, residents have banded together to save the bridge, which is not only a valued crossing of the Rideau River and Canal, but also a heritage landmark. It is one of the last remains of the old town of Andrewsville, which was once a thriving centre of milling in the area. “We’ve been fighting and going to [council] meetings for years,” Jane Anne says.
If this continues, it could seriously damage the longevity of the bridge. It is very old and therefore not meant for the weight of many of today’s large vehicles. In anticipation of the closing of the Burritts Rapids bridge, the Friends of the Andrewsville Bridge asked the township to put up more signs, warning of the height and weight restrictions, but it doesn’t seem to be having the necessary effect. The Burritts Rapids bridge won’t be finished for another few months, so Jane Anne says she has no idea what to do next. “I don’t know how we are going to last another three months,” she says.
The best thing she has come up with is contacting the local media, in hopes that people will become more informed, spread the word, and most, importantly, heed the signs on the road.