Sylvain Gaudreault, Quebec's Transport Minister, and Stéphane Bedard, the Minister responsible for the Saguenay – Lac St-Jean region, told reporters on Sunday afternoon that work will begin on Monday, December 16, to repair damage caused by a fire last week.
The work will involve reinforcing a pillar weakened by the fire, which started last Monday in steel scaffolding around it. The structure was already under repair, and Transports Québec believes the fire was sparked by a heating system used to dry concrete.
Announcement is news to mayor
The announcement, and the ministers’ assertion that an aluminum bridge in neighbouring Arvida would be ready for use the next day, caught Jean Tremblay, the Mayor of Saguenay, and other city officials by surprise.
“I found out five minutes before the press conference and this is surely information that was known for awhile,” he said. “You’d think we’re playing for different teams. It’s very frustrating.”
For one thing, Tremblay said there was still work to be done before the aluminum bridge is ready for general traffic.
Since the blaze, motorists have been forced to drive two hours to a crossing at the Shipshaw area of Jonquière. Schools in Rives-du-Saguenay and Jonquière are closed as a result of the transportation delays, along with the Cégep de Chicoutimi.
Thousands of people in Saguenay who rely on the bridge to get to work now have to park their cars and walk across the Sainte-Anne Bridge, a pedestrian swing bridge that spans the river.
Saguenay’s public transit service (STS) has also set up a free shuttle service on both sides of the Sainte-Anne Bridge to transport commuters to the bus terminal. Ten additional buses are being provided by Quebec City.