We read with interest of the newly constructed bridge in northern Ontario that heaved apart, indefinitely closing the Trans-Canada highway — the only road connecting Eastern and Western Canada.
The Nipigon River Bridge had been closed for “due to mechanical issues,” according to the Ontario Provincial Police. It was reported that a gust of wind had pulled away the west side of the bridge from the abutment connecting it to the river bank’s edge, lifting up about 60 centimetres. By Monday January 11 the bridge had been partially opened.
A $106 million project to replace the original bridge with two parallel spans carrying 4 total lanes began in 2013 as part of a region-wide project to widen the Trans-Canada Highway to 4 lanes; the cable-stayed designs for the twin bridges was to be the first of its kind in Ontario. The future westbound bridge opened on November 29, 2015; both directions of traffic were shifted onto the new bridge to prepare the old span for demolition.
The expansion of the Nipigon Bridge, which has been ongoing, was slated to finish in 2017. It was also touted as making the country’s shipping route less vulnerable, the community’s mayor said, as it would boost the two-lane crossing to four lanes.
The original King’s Highway 17 bridge opened in 1937. The completion of the Nipigon River Bridge was one of the most widely anticipated highway construction projects in Northwestern Ontario’s history. The new bridge united the North Shore Highway between Lake Helen and Schreiber with the rest of the Trans Canada Highway (Hwy 17) which ran from Nipigon westerly to Port Arthur. Prior to the completion of the Nipigon River Bridge, automobiles had to be transported by rail or by boat between the two discontinuous highways.
Initially the connection between east and west was touted most for the psychological impact of unifying the nation. Reflecting the times we live in, many headlines today speak of the security issue and the lack of any other road alternative to connect Canada.