Border bridge deal looks good on paper

| 2/28/2006

Two struggling paper mills that own the Rainy River Bridge at the border crossing between International Falls, MN, and Fort Frances, Ontario, Canada, announced this week that the bridge is for sale.

The possible sale has many interesting elements to it, according to Canada’s The Globe and Mail newspaper and other media sources. About 900,000 vehicles cross the bridge each year.

Some people are speculating that the Ambassador Bridge Company in Detroit is interested in the bridge, while others say International Falls and Fort Frances are working on a deal to buy it.

If the small cities buy the bridge, officials say they would cut the tolls significantly, The Globe and Mail reported. Cars crossing into Ontario there are charged an $8 toll, while northbound truckers pay $20.

“That can end up being a lot of money when you’re sending hundreds of trucks across the border every week,” Fort Frances Mayor Dan Onichuk told the Canadian media.

Traffic bound for the U.S. at that crossing currently does not pay tolls.

Onichuk said eliminating the toll would stimulate economic activity and save some businesses.

Rainy River Bridge is 98 years old and currently owned by paper mills on both sides of the border that are looking for a cash infusion.

The Toronto Star quoted Ambassador Bridge Company President Dan Stamper as saying that company, owned by Detroit billionaire Matty Moroun, is interested in the discussion.