Bridge Failure will cause Major Transportation Issues in Northern Ontario

Nipigon Bridge

The first half of the new Nipigon River Bridge, Ontario’s first cable-stayed bridge was opened on November 29th, 2015 after 3 years of construction. The completed bridge will feature three towers with cables supporting the bridge deck and a separate sidewalk for pedestrians. Bot Ferrovial Nipigon Joint Venture was awarded the $106-million contract, and expects the project to be completed in 2017. In 2013, Hatch Mott MacDonald was retained by MTO to provide Construction Contract Administration for the duration of the construction.

A press release from the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines on March 8th, 2013 was exciting “The construction of a new cable-stayed bridge along the Highway 11-17 expansion east of Thunder Bay will make travel easier and safer for families and businesses while strengthening tourism and the economy in the north.”. Minister Gravelle said, “Thanks to the Northern Highways Program, the expansion of the Highway 11-17 corridor will continue with this exciting project. The Nipigon River Bridge will be a very bold and striking structure that will be more than a vital link for traffic on this expanded part of the TransCanada Highway. It will be a landmark structure that will not only serve drivers but also become a destination attraction in its own right.”

Today at 3:05 p.m. OPP closed the bridge – due to mechanical issues.

Nipigon Bridge Failure
This photograph appears to be taken from the north or west side of the bridge. The turnoff for Highway 11 is just visible in the background. Photo Credit: MaryLynn Grieve/Facebook (Northern Ontario Traffic Alerts – Alertes Routiers)

Photographs of the bridge show that an expansion joint has shifted, not just inches, but a significant shift of perhaps a foot or more. There also appears to be a tilt to the bridge decking, however, the cross-section shows that that is a design component.

At this time, eastbound vehicle traffic is being turned back to Terrace Bay, and the Nipigon Community Centre is open at this time as a refuge for stranded travellers. Westbound traffic is being advised of the bridge closure via MTO highway signs. Information is also available on nearly all Northern Ontario media sites, Ontario511, Twitter feeds and Facebook.

For local residents stranded on the wrong side of the bridge arrangements were being made for them to walk the bridge so they can return home. A shuttle will take them from the bridge to the shuttle stop on Reserve side and then there will be a truck on the other side as well.

nipigon-mapWawa-news has been told that arrangements have been made to ensure ambulance and fire vehicles can cross the sunken expansion joint on metal sheeting, should an emergency arise.

At this time inspectors are being flown in to evaluate the bridge. Until that evaluation is done there is no travel on the bridge. As this is the only passage through Ontario, travellers will have to detour through the United States to get around Lake Superior. If there are substantial delays, communities who receive supplies from Thunder Bay will have to source from points east.

Transports carrying goods may not be able to travel through the United States unless they have valid border documents for themselves and their cargo. This will also apply to motorists travelling through the United States.


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