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Businesses balk at Walkerton, Ont. bridge project

One of Bruce County’s busiest bridges is about to become a big pile of rubble.

“The bridge is actually Bruce County’s highest driven traffic route. Approximately 12,000 people cross that bridge per day. I’d have to believe it’s more than that, especially on weekends,” said Nicole Thomas, Walkerton resident and downtown business owner.

The Durham Street bridge demolition and reconstruction is expected to start in the spring of 2025.

Residents had assumed that Walkerton would be getting a temporary bridge, better known as a Bailey bridge, to get people from one side of Walkerton to the other. Not unlike the temporary bridge currently being used in Paisley, as the main bridge in their community undergoes reconstruction.

“One person actually said to me ‘Are we not getting Paisley’s bridge?’ The thought is out there, and nobody would expect that anybody would cut us off completely from our own town,” said Thomas.

The plan proposed by Bruce County right now is to send residents on a seven-kilometre detour around Walkerton, to get from one side of town to the other, not to use a temporary bridge during the 18-month construction project.

Proposed detour around Walkerton, Ont. during Durham Street bridge reconstruction. (Source: Bruce County)

“The Paisley project really raised people’s expectations. That was in the neighbourhood of $2.5 million. This Bailey bridge is projected to be $6.5 million. It’s not unthinkable that the County would approve that, but it does raise the stakes, and make it more of a difficult project,” said Bruce County Warden, and Municipality of Brockton (which includes Walkerton) Mayor, Chris Peabody.

Walkerton’s downtown businesses, who fear they’d be very adversely affected without a temporary bridge connecting their town, are petitioning Bruce County to change their tune on the Durham Street bridge plan.

“We’re not on the way anywhere, so to shut down a huge part of our town and keep these people disconnected from this part is a lot,” said Walkerton downtown business owner Jenn Filsinger.

“We worry about the fire department. We’re cutting off 1,700 people. If you’re on that side, you’d be better to shop in a different county. That’s why merchants are worried, and a lot of citizens are worried about their healthcare,” said Walkerton business owner Mike McIntee.

Thomas said she has calculated the extra cost of using the seven-kilometre detour for 18 months as $2,800 in gas alone.

“Cutting us off is essentially cutting off our downtown, plus splitting our town in two. And we’re just asking for the county to find a way to give us a temporary bridge to get us across,” said Thomas.

Although construction isn’t expected to start until the spring of 2025, Peabody said Bruce County council will be deciding by January whether it’s a detour, temporary bridge, or another solution, to bridge the divide in Walkerton.

“The bridge itself is 85 years old. A design of that model in Quebec, the centre joint did fail and the bridge fell into the river, so absolutely the bridge has to be replaced. The contentious issue is whether there should be a Bailey bridge or a detour around town,” said Peabody.

You can learn more about the Durham Street bridge project by following this link.

To learn more about Walkerton business owners’ petition for a temporary bridge, you can contact Nicole Thomas at Top Stories

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