At 3:35 p.m. Sunday, the Nipigon Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police advised that the bridge on Highway 17 has been closed for an indefinite time due to mechanical issues.
This is the brand new bridge, and it’s failure effectively cuts Canada in half. There is no travel around Lake Superior/Northern Ontario unless you travel into the United States. The failure of this bridge will cause immediate supply problems for communities along the north shore of Lake Superior who rely on supplies from Thunder Bay. White River and communities to the west are supplied from Thunder Bay reports Brenda Grundt from Wawa-News.com
It is not known at this time how long the highway will be closed.
From Canadian Press:
NIPIGON, Ont. – Damage to a newly built bridge cut traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway in both directions Sunday and it wasn’t clear when it could reopen, said the mayor of a Northern Ontario community.
Nipigon Mayor Richard Harvey said engineers were examining the Nipigon River Bridge on Highway 11/17 to determine the extent of the damage and how it happened.
“We’re not sure exactly what the damage to the bridge is at this point,” he said in an interview.
Images of the bridge appeared to show a section of the structure is warped. Part of the metal decking can be seen sticking into the air, a release from the Ontario Provincial Police said it had lifted about 60 centimetres into the air.
The only option for motorists driving across northern Ontario is to cross the U.S. border, there being no alternate road routes north of the Trans-Canada, Harvey said.
Foot traffic can still cross the bridge and if the damage means a lengthy closure, the municipality will look at alternatives to allow some vehicles to cross the river, he said.
“This is something that, in our emergency preparedness in this area, we have run scenarios for and we do have options on how we would fairly quickly get traffic moving if there is a more serious issue,” he said.
“There are alternate routes that we could, with a little bit of work, open up to get at least some traffic moving again.”
Harvey said the bridge has only been open for about two months ago and was the largest most expensive bridge project ever undertaken in Ontario.
The Municipality of Greenstone, which includes a number of small communities in the area, declared a state of emergency Sunday because of the bridge closure.
Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca issued a statement late Sunday saying engineers would work to reopen the bridge as soon as possible, but gave no estimate on when that would happen.
MTO engineers are currently on site inspecting the bridge to identify the areas of concern and determine the measures necessary to ensure the bridge can reopen safely to traffic as soon as possible.
Ontario’s Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle was to visit the site Monday morning, the statement said.
Area community centres in Nipigon were open for travellers who were stranded due to the closure.
Wawa-News.com is following this story and will have updates as they are available.