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Heritage Bridge Guidelines Identifying a Rich Heritage

The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is collaborating with the Ministry of Culture (MOC) on the Ontario Heritage Bridge program. This program helps MTO's engineers consider the historical significance of bridges in addition to typical safety and cost issues. As part of this collaboration, the two ministries commissioned the University of Waterloo to draft a study entitled, Identification and Assessment Guide for Bridges Built in Ontario Between 1945-1965. The completed study will be incorporated into the revised Heritage Bridge Guidelines when they are published sometime in 2005.

The purpose of Waterloo's assessment guide is to single out any bridge built between 1945 and 1965 that may require a more detailed heritage assessment in the future. It augments the current Ontario Heritage Bridge Guide that was released as a draft in 2000. Bridges built before 1945 will go through an assessment based on this older guide, while those built between 1945 and 1965 are subject to the Waterloo report. Over the next few months, MTO's Bridge Office will be working with the Environmental Section and MOC to combine both documents into a new Heritage Bridge Guide. Waterloo's report will play a major role in efficiently preserving the province's precious heritage sites.

An important feature of the Waterloo guide is a 100-point scale that helps user(s) determines whether a bridge can be given a heritage designation. The scale's key judging criteria relate to the bridge's construction, history, and aesthetic appeal. Construction criteria include factors such as material, style, and builder. Overall aesthetic and historical criteria include the bridge's design, location, interplay with surrounding environment, and associations with people/events of the past.

The Heritage Bridge Program demonstrates how MTO considers many factors in its maintenance and rehabilitation work on Ontario's highways. The work of a bridge engineer involves many dimensions, and initiatives such as this program help these engineers keep all relevant details in mind.