ST. MARTINS, N.B. — New Brunswick’s opposition leader says he will work to preserve the province’s historic covered bridges — sometimes known as “kissing bridges” — if his party forms the government after this month’s election.
In a press release, Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs said the government isn’t doing enough to protect the aging bridges from being torn down and replaced with concrete or steel structures.
“In 1953 we had 340 covered bridges. Today there are only 58,” Higgs said. “With every bridge we lose, we are also losing our connection to our past.”
Higgs said the province has world-class expertise in timber structure construction and there is no need to continue replacing the wooden bridges with concrete or steel.
He said he plans to work with Wood Research and Development Ltd., an international company whose Canadian headquarters are located in Lower Cape, to figure out ways to keep them standing.
“We have world-class expertise in cost-effective timber structure construction right here in New Brunswick,” said Higgs. “As long as that’s the case, there is no excuse for a Bailey bridge made of steel.”
At the end of July, concerned New Brunswick residents held two rallies to ask the government to protect what’s left of their covered bridges.
Dan Tingley, senior design engineer at Wood Research and Development, said at the time that with proper maintenance, timber bridges can last just as long, or even longer, than their steel or concrete counterparts.
During his time at the University of New Brunswick in the 1980s, Tingley helped develop a way to make timber last longer: creating high-strength laminates out of fibres like Kevlar and carbon, then attaching it to the timber elements to help prevent decay and increase bridge capacity.
“A timber bridge, properly built, will outlast a steel bridge by twofold and outlast a concrete bridge by threefold,” he said.
Ray Boucher, president of the Covered Bridges Conservation Association of New Brunswick, said in July that only three of the 58 covered bridges in the province are protected as heritage structures, including the Hartland Covered Bridge, the longest existing bridge of its kind in the world.
“We are the only Atlantic province that has covered bridges within our boundaries,” said Boucher at the time, noting that Quebec and Ontario are the only other Canadian provinces with covered bridges.
The New Brunswick election takes place Sept. 24.