St. Anne, patroness to mariners, miners, cabinet makers, and pregnant women, can add one more group to her list of protégées. In one part of the province of Québec, St. Anne has become the savior of thousands of local commuters.
Two hundred kilometers north of Québec City, a fjord slices westward into the Laurentian Mountains. At the westernmost extremity of the fjord, the waterway narrows to the size of a river, creating a tranquil spot for the harbor city of Saguenay.
The city of 70,000 people sprawls out over both sides of the river. There is but one bridge that allows automobile traffic back and forth between the north and south bank.
Unfortunately, the bridge serving the people of Saguenay – the Pont Dubuc – has experienced some difficulties lately. On the evening of December 9th, a blaze broke out at the base of one of its pillars. Scaffolding that had been set up for routine maintenance caught fire, severely damaging the steel undercarriage of the bridge. Since then, the bridge has been closed to all traffic, causing headaches throughout the region.
To get across the river now, Saguenéens have two options. They can take a 42-kilometer detour to the west to cross at Shipshaw, or they can walk across St. Anne’s bridge.
Le Pont Ste Anne was built in the 1930s, but closed in the 1970s when it was deemed no longer adequate for automobile traffic. Today however, commuters are using it in droves, crossing the 80-year-old bridge on foot.
It is an impressive site, watching the people of the region brave the snow and cold to trudge the half-kilometer across the river. And it is important to note that this December has been snowier and colder than usual. The Saguenéens have impressed me greatly with their hardy spirit as they walk to work and school across the icy Saguenay River.
(Photo Credit: Infos NRJ/Rouge FM)