By Laura Broadley, St. Thomas Times-Journal
When the bridge in Port Bruce collapsed last month amid regional flooding, Karen Vecchio, MP for Elgin-Middlesex-London, reacted quickly.
“The very first day I’d already been in discussions,” Vecchio said.
Vecchio understood immediately the implications the collapsed county-owned bridge would have on the village; she lived about two kilometres away from it while growing up.
“I’m very familiar with the bridge as well as the activity along the bridge,” Vecchio said.
Vecchio delivered letters about the bridge collapse to six different ministers, including the minister of environment and climate change and the minister of transportation.
“There needs to be immediate action,” Vecchio said.
Public safety is one of the biggest issues, she added.
When it comes to rebuilding and reconstructing the bridge there’s going to be a lot of matters that need to be dealt with.
“Whether it’s species at risk or the trout season coming up,” Vecchio said.
Vecchio said she wanted the ministers to know what was going on when applications for disaster relief to the federal government came in from Elgin County.
“A lot of times the process is they apply for disaster relief to the province and then the province comes to the federal government asking for funding,” Vecchio said.
Vecchio said she’s not sure where the temporary bridge fix would go because on the west side there are properties. To the east of the bridge there is some land, but that could be a floodplain issue.
“We’re just trying to make sure, at the end of the day, any of the challenges and barriers that they may face are being looked at from the federal government immediately,” Vecchio said.
Vecchio said it’s important that all levels of government work together to find a solution.
A timeline for when a temporary bridge will be in place is still unknown.
“I wish I could sit there and say, ‘Work can start soon,’ but there are going to be so many issues,” Vecchio said.
The Port Bruce bridge has been a county asset since 1997. The bridge was repaired in 1999 and last inspected in 2016.