[Only Road Between East and West Canada Severed] New Bridge crippled (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal – January 11, 2016)

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The newly-constructed Nipigon River Bridge has come apart, sparking a state of emergency in the Municipality of Greenstone and blocking traffic along the Trans-Canada Highway.

Provincial police closed off the road along Highway 11/17 near the Northern Ontario township Sunday afternoon. With the bridge out, this leaves motorists with no options to directly drive across the country. They would need to take a long detour through the United States.

In a news release, the Ministry of Transportation said that safety is their top priority and conditions are being assessed. The official MTO Twitter handle — @511Ontario — stated “duration of (closure) unknown at this time, possibly will be days.”

Thunder Bay-Superior North MPP Michael Gravelle said from what he has been told, the bolts holding the girder together to the actual barring have broken, which has lifted a deck up. He said the contract engineer is working on a solution to try and put weight back down on the bridge.

He said there’s no determination on when this will happen.

“Obviously, this is a fairly significant, if not, very serious situation,” Gravelle said. “The duration of the time the bridge will be closed is not known at this time. I’m in touch with the Ministry of Transportation and the ministers office and I’m trying to get updates as quickly as I can. We’re doing everything we can to rectify this as soon as possible.”

Gravelle wasn’t able to confirm if the break happened because of the frigid weather, which was around -34 C with the wind chill, according to Environment Canada.

“It seems to be what people tend to think might have happened but I don’t know that,” he said. “They haven’t stated that. I’m going to be, clearly, very engaged with this all throughout the evening and waiting for regular updates on it. Clearly, this has a huge impact on traffic for the province going both ways.”

A major milestone for the province’s first cable-stayed bridge came in November when the westbound lanes opened, marking the completion of the first phase of the project.
Touted as the crown jewel to the province’s commitment to four-laning the highway from Thunder Bay to Nipigon, the $106-million project got underway in 2013 with a completion date around 2017.

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