Efforts to construct a man-made peninsula to buffer the north-side abutment of the Petawawa River Bridge on Petawawa Boulevard continued throughout the day on Tuesday, April 30. It was discovered early Tuesday morning that the swollen, fast flowing flood waters of the Petawawa River were eroding the abutment leading officials to close the bridge indefinitely for safety and reroute traffic to and from Garrison Petawawa to the Highway 17 bridge. Anthony Dixon / Observer and News
Anthony Dixon / Observer and News / jpg
PETAWAWA – One of the busiest bridges in Renfrew County has been closed while workers fight to save the critical structure from raging flood waters.The Petawawa River Bridge is the main link between the Town of Petawawa and Garrison Petawawa with an average of 16,700 vehicles crossing it every day. Officials have no estimate on when the bridge will reopen, assuming the worst case scenario of a collapse doesn’t happen.“The bank is eroding very quickly but we hope with these emergency repairs that the critical infrastructure will be protected,” said Lee Perkins, the director of public works and engineering for the County of Renfrew. “We are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. These guys are going to go until it’s safe. That’s the key, making it safe but because the river is scouring above the bridge, I mean if (the bank) goes, who knows? It’s Mother Nature and you don’t usually win against Mother Nature.”Perkins explained that the river’s water level is currently well above average which only exacerbates the already swift flowing river filled with rapids throughout that section. The river also takes a 90-degree bend right before the bridge. Perkins said the incredible volume of fast-flowing water wants to go straight but must make the turn because of the steep bank so it is scouring, literally eating away, the river bank and the bridge abutment on the garrison side of the river.
Work continued Tuesday afternoon to shore up the north abutment of the Petawawa River Bridge on Petawawa Boulevard. Flood waters are eroding the bank and the abutment. Anthony Dixon / Observer and News
Perkins said the plan to save the bridge is to create a man-made peninsula out of blast rock to create a buffer for the bridge abutment. The work to protect the abutment began early Tuesday morning and there is no estimate on how long the work will take or when it will be safe to reopen the bridge. Dump truck after dump truck continued to dump huge boulders down beside the abutment while a high hoe dragged them into position to create the buffer peninsula.In addition to being the main route on and off the garrison, the bridge also features a utility lines including a natural gas line and a water main between a water tower at the garrison and the town.“Not only is it inconvenient for the travelling public but it has the potential to be much worse but at this point we are quite comfortable with the repairs that are going on,” Perkins said.The work was continuing Tuesday afternoon and while engineers and inspectors continued to assess the situation.County staff noticed the erosion taking place during an inspection of the bridge early Tuesday morning. These morning checks are being done daily throughout Renfrew County on structures near areas that are flooded. Once the erosion was discovered, Renfrew County officials called in a bridge engineer from WSP consulting in Ottawa.The situation causes some logistical problems as well but Garrison Petawawa and the Town of Petawawa are working together.The detour around the bridge closure means an extra 11.2 km for commuters to and from the garrison. Traffic from the Garrison is being routed along Paquette Rd to Highway 17, then down Highway 17 to Murphy Rd.Garrison acting commander Lt.-Col. Joe Hartson explained that while the main portion of the garrison is north of the river, there is a residential portion south of the river. The mutual aid agreement between the town’s and the garrison’s fire departments has been invoked meaning that town firefighters will respond immediately to a fire on the south side. The garrison’s fire department will still attend the scene but will have to take the detour around to get there. A similar arrangement is in place with the Ontario Provincial Police taking calls within the south-side residential section of the garrison until Military Police can make their way around the detour.Lt.-Col. Hartson said the bridge is a critical link for the garrison because of the amount of traffic that passes over it daily.“I’ve never seen the river like this, certainly not in my time here. It is unprecedentedly high,” Lt.-Col. Hartson said. “This certainly is a sign of the remarkable power of nature.”A real estate office located near the bridge, across from the Petawawa Legion was ordered to evacuate Monday evening because of the rate at which the river was eating away at the river bank.The current bridge has been in place since the collapse of the previous bridge in the early 1970s.The town’s emergency control group continues to monitor the flooding situation along the Petawawa River and the Ottawa River.The Town of Petawawa declared a state of emergency due to flooding Sunday evening.ADixon@postmedia.com
This is a before photo of the bank of the Petawawa River next to the Petawawa River bridge. Erosion has forced the closure of a large section of Petawawa Boulevard including the bridge.
The raging Petawawa River is causing erosion of the bank next to the Petawawa River Bridge on Petawawa Boulevard. This was the condition of the slope as of about 3 p.m. April 29. On the morning of April 30, the County of Renfrew opted to close the bridge. There is no estimate on when it will reopen.
Tina Peplinskie / Observer and News