Bridge re-opening creates big excitement

A worker from Dexter Construction removes the barricades to officially open the Fall River Bridge on Aug. 24. (Healey photo)

FALL RIVER: It seemed fitting that the first vehicles to cross the Fall River Road Bridge when it reopened Aug. 24 were two motorcycles.

Fitting because so many were unable to take their regular route for the past six weeks and take advantage of the nice, sunny weather to go for a drive or make a stop by the Fall River Tim Hortons to catch up with fellow biker friends.

With people becoming a tad antsy to get back to their regular routine—and many naysayers doubting it would be done on time or even before the school bell rings to begin a new school year—crews worked away Aug. 24 at removing the pedestrian bridge and re-position cement barricades, the last bit of work that was needed before the $1.3 million bridge reopened.

As that work was finishing, Larry Harding, the bridge division superintendent with Dexter Construction, looked on helping out where he could. And then giving out instructions to the four workers that were by the barrels blocking off traffic from getting in at either end.

The four employees kept an eye on their boss as he walked on the sidewalk nearest to the Subway. And as he looked up from his watch which read 3:45 p.m., he gave the thumbs up and the four quickly removed the barrels opening up the road and bridge to free flowing traffic once again. The bridge was reopening two days earlier than the expected Aug. 26 date.

The two motorcycles that were patiently waiting at the Jessy’s Pizza side in the lineup went across—both drivers appearing to have happy smiles on their faces at being the first two. A vehicle at the Wilson’s Gas station—with N.B. license plates—was let out so it was the first vehicle to cross the bridge from the opposite direction.

As other motorists saw vehicles travelling freely across the bridge, they went across it themselves. Many gave honks showing their excitement at not having to go the “long way” any more. Some motorists even went across it more than a handful of times, each time yelling their enthusiasm from their vehicles.

“This is great that it’s done,” said one passerby. “Things can get back to normal.”

Well almost normal. While the bridge is officially reopened, crews will continue to work at the site making final fix ups, reminded Councillor Barry Dalrymple.

“There may be at times stop-and-go traffic at the bridge as construction work continues,” he said. “This is a great day to have it open so soon. A lot of people will be happy.”

The work he is referring to includes working at fixing the area used for the pedestrian bridge in the drive-thru for Subway and at the multi-unit commercial property that houses Good Day Kitchen and MRD Driving among other businesses. The Subway drive-thru is scheduled to reopen in early to mid-September.

A woman pulling a luggage carrier who was passing gave a nice gesture showing her appreciation for the job the crew had done, giving the workers two boxes of Popsicles which on this sunny, 30 Celsius afternoon was quickly emptied.

While construction workers often don’t get shown appreciation—especially given that many projects aren’t completed until past their deadlines—this wasn’t the case in this instance. Even with naysayers saying the project should have been done this way or that way, the workers faces after getting the popsicles showed that simple gesture meant the world.

Once the opening of the bridge took place, operations with HRM Fire reverted back to normal procedure with the regular four man career crew returning to Station 45 in Fall River. They had been stationed at Station 41 in Waverley for the duration of the bridge construction period, while the two man crew that came in to Station 45 were redeployed.

While there wasn’t anything extravagant—like a ribbon cutting—to mark the opening, there was a small crowd on hand for what District 1 council candidate Steve Streatch termed “a momentous occasion” for Fall River and its residents.