Traffic lights for Mansfield intersection Anger over lack of action on Red Covered Bridge

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Allyson Beauregard

MANSFIELD & FORT-COULONGE – The upcoming installation of
a traffic light along Highway 148 at the

Allyson Beauregard

MANSFIELD & FORT-COULONGE – The upcoming installation of
a traffic light along Highway 148 at the
junction of Chemin de la Chute in Mansfield was announced at the Council of Mayors meeting, March 24. “The traffic light at this intersection is a project that has been discussed for the last 7 to 8 years. The work is scheduled to be done this year,” said Raymond Durocher, MRC Pontiac Warden and Mayor of Fort-Coulonge.
In addition to the
traffic light, a left turning lane will also be installed; the project is in response to a demand to make the intersection safer.  The work will be done through the Ministère des Transports du Québec. “The costs are estimated to be between 1 and 5 million dollars. However, as the contract for the work has not yet been granted, the MTQ cannot disclose more accurate estimates,” said Karine Sauvé, MTQ Spokesperson.
Durocher and Kathy Belec, Mayor of Mansfield, are pleased about the
project but they expressed disappointment that nothing has been done to
re-open the Marchand Bridge, which the MTQ closed last May due to
concerns it was unstable. “The red bridge is still closed. We support the
traffic light project, but we don’t want the bridge to be bypassed… it is also
important,” said Durocher. As a preventive measure, the MTQ performed stabilization work under the bridge last fall.
The MTQ has provided vague details about the timeline for the bridge’s repair. “Since plans and specifications are currently being developed in order to conduct work to strengthen the bridge, a timeframe hasn’t been established yet,” said Sauvé. “This covered bridge is unique and repairs require specialized expertise, which can take more time than expected,” she continued.
“Both communities are tired by the lack of information regarding the repair of this asset. It looks like the repair will not be done in 2015 and we don’t know when it will be… it seems to be a
question of funding,” explained Durocher, who suggested the traffic light project may be used to stall work on the bridge. “Any more delays are not acceptable. They (MTQ) are only thinking about money. The bridge is an important link between Fort-Coulonge and Mansfield,” he continued.
According to Belec, in the last conversation she had with the MTQ, she was told the estimated price tag of the work needed had increased and that when repaired,
vehicles would not be permitted to cross the bridge. “The bridge will remain closed until the end of all the necessary work. No decision has been made concerning the re-opening of the bridge to
traffic,” said Sauvé.
Durocher noted that many local residents are outraged about the installation of a traffic light while the bridge remains untouched. “The situation is deplorable to some… for them, the bridge in the number one priority. I have had citizens tell me that if the MTQ won’t repair the bridge to its former
operating state, they will stand on the Highway 148 and block the traffic light project,” he continued.
Remi Bertrand, MRC Pontiac Director General, stated the delay is caused by a lack of interest
outside the Pontiac to have the bridge repaired. “It’s a Quebec landmark. It needs a politcal push to move it forward,” he
concluded.   
The red covered bridge has been a landmark over the Coulonge River since 1898; it holds the title of
the longest covered bridge in Quebec.