Trans-Canada Highway bridge closure should be 'wake-up call'

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line associate editor | 1/13/2016

Truckers who run in Canada are hoping the failure of the only bridge connecting the country’s western and eastern halves will serve as “a wake-up call” to government about the need for additional routes linking the country.

The newly constructed Nipigon River Bridge in northern Ontario suffered a mechanical failure on Jan. 10, temporarily closing it completely. According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, bolts holding a section of the bridge together snapped off, causing a portion of the bridge to rise roughly two feet. It has since reopened to one lane of traffic, but the ministry is still unsure when the bridge would be repaired and fully reopened. The bridge is in the midst of a $106-million twinning project, the second phase of which has been slated for completion in 2017.

OOIDA Senior Member Johanne Couture of Brockville, Ont., said she hopes the issue will force the government to consider further improvements to the nation’s Trans-Canada Highway.

“The bigger issue is this bridge is the one and only crossing over the Nipigon River,” she said. “I'm hoping this will come as a major wake-up call to the Ontario Liberal government and the Federal government, that this is the Trans-Canada Highway, the one and only link from east to west, and it should have been twinned 20 years ago.”

MTO officials said the average daily traffic on the bridge is roughly 3,500 total vehicles, including approximately 1,300 commercial vehicles, according to 2012 figures. They also stated there is no alternative route for motorists, other than a detour through the United States. The closest border crossings are either Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., from the east side of the river, or one of the smaller border crossings in Minnesota on the west side.

“To put it in clear U.S. geographical terms, this bridge closure is like closing every bridge over the Mississippi River. Imagine the impact that would have on interstate commerce, even for one day,” Couture said.

Couture said the transportation industry has lobbied for many years now to have the Trans-Canada Highway twinned, because most of the routes in northern Ontario are two-lane roads, and the winter season “starts early and ends late.”

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