Residents living in Co Wexford face another year before a bridge badly damaged during the floods of Christmas Day 2021 is repaired.
For the past year, those living between the village of Bree and Davidstown, Co Wexford have faced an additional 30-minute round trip daily when bringing their children to a local school instead of what once took four minutes.
However, according to Wexford County Council it is hoped that works “could commence in Spring 2023 with a construction period of six months".
Wilton Bridge, is a four arch masonry structure which was constructed in the 1840s was severely damaged by fast flowing flood waters carrying debris during the extreme rainfall event on December 25th.
According to Wexford County Council it is hoped that works “could commence in Spring 2023 with a construction period of six months".
Cathal Byrne, deputy chairman of Wexford County Council who lives in the area slammed the delay in repairing the bridge as he pointed out that other bridges which were also significantly damaged during the floods have been repaired and have reopened.
“The length of time that is taking to fix this bridge is totally unacceptable especially when several other bridges which were also badly damaged have already been fixed and have reopened.
“Parents and locals are having to do a large loop around the area as they can’t use the bridge. They’ve already had a year of inconvenience and are now facing another year of this which is a burden on their time and financially.”
Conservation work was carried out on the structure on several occasions over the years by Wexford County Council, and as recently as 2018 when three of the four arches were tied and repointed for added strength and stability.
A spokesperson for Wexford County Council said: “The elevated flood waters on December 25 last carried large volumes of debris, tree trunks and branches downstream from the catchment and some debris lodged in the bridge arches causing damage and partial collapse.
“The Council Engineers examined the bridge initially on Christmas Day and immediately closed it to vehicular traffic as one arch had collapsed and parapet walls were demolished.”
Subsequent examinations were carried out on the structure by specialist engineers when flood water levels dropped sufficiently in the following days to discover that extensive damage, undermining and scouring had occurred to arches and abutments, which required the bridge to be closed to all traffic, including cyclist and pedestrians.
The spokesperson added: “In order to determine the best method for refurbishment or reconstruction it was necessary to establish the hydraulic capacity of the existing bridge structure.”
Flooding in Wexford today. pic.twitter.com/LWW6UAAKVp
— James Cox (@jamescox91) December 25, 2021
It is the Council’s preference to preserve the masonry structure but that wholly depended on hydraulic flow modelling. The Council made a statutory application to the Office of Public Works (OPW) to determine if the hydraulic capacity is adequate and future proofed.
While the OPW application was being assessed during the year, the Council undertook a major clearance of the upstream river banks to remove dead and overgrown vegetation.
Consent has been received by the Council from the OPW that allows the structure to be rebuilt as a masonry arch bridge.
Documents are being prepared to invite suitably qualified contractors to tender for the reconstruction works early in 2023 and approval from the Inland Fisheries required for any works in rivers or streams.