Paisley holds ‘closing night party’ for its bridge

·3 min read

PAISLEY – A closing night party is always a celebration that’s bittersweet – the successful run of a great show, combined with the knowledge it’s been seen for the last time.

The sunset farewell ceremony for the 87-year-old Teeswater River Bridge on Aug. 10 was, in essence, a closing night party. Arran-Elderslie officials shared a few words, and there was music and a cake cutting. The bridge has served the community well, through good and bad, floods, ice jams, traffic jams and economic ups and downs. It deserved a good send-off. The community wanted the opportunity to bid a fond farewell to their bridge; the ceremony attracted quite a large crowd.

Arran-Elderslie Mayor Steve Hammell said, “I was very pleased to see so many Paisley supporters come out to commemorate 87 years of our Teeswater bridge. Our temporary bridge is now ready and in use.”

He added, “We have a lot of activities and events planned in the next 14 months of construction and are open for business.”

There are few in the area who have not driven over it, usually without a thought. It’s on the well-travelled route to Bruce Power and the peninsula. Located where the Teeswater River flows into the Saugeen, it’s been part of the downtown Paisley landscape for as long as most area residents can remember.

The bridge was constructed in 1935, at a time when the expected lifespan of a bridge was about 50 years. After 87 years, the bridge showed “significant deterioration.”

All good things must end. The bridge has been in need of replacement for some time, and the sudden failure of the bridge in Chesley a few years ago added a certain urgency to the situation. Because the route and bridge are so important to the area, the decision was made to replace the bridge before there was a critical failure.

Replacing the bridge will not be an easy task, nor a cheap one. The project is now estimated at over $10 million. It’s attached at one end to buildings, and is tied into flood control infrastructure.

The Teeswater River Bridge is now officially closed, with traffic routed across the temporary bridge over the Saugeen River. Because of the sharp turns, operators of trucks and agricultural machinery are urged to avoid the in-town detour and take an out-of-town route as posted on the Bruce County website.

Construction of the new bridge will take place until September 2023, when new infrastructure construction work will be done. The temporary bridge will be demolished when the new bridge is completed.

The new bridge will be a two-span structure, designed with input from the community. There’s more to the new bridge than looks – the river beneath the structure will flow better. However, one request from the public that was repeated time and time again was something that reflected the artistic nature of the community. The new bridge will have wider sidewalks to accommodate pedestrian traffic, as well as viewing platforms on both sides. The decorative railing will be lower, to allow an unobstructed view of the river – perfect for artists, photographers and tourists, and a credit to careful planning.

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times