Consultants studying swing bridge replacement to present options

Swing Bridge, June 2019

The Recorder

LITTLE CURRENT—The second of the public information sessions on the fate of the historic Manitoulin swing bridge was to be held on Wednesday and on Tuesday during  the July 16 meeting of Northeast Town council, representatives from Stantec and the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) were to present their latest findings, including preferred alternative options, in the ongoing study.

In an advanced copy of the MTO presentation obtained by this newspaper, the MTO reiterated that the swing bridge is nearing the end of its “service life.” This, the MTO study notes, is phase two, or the ‘planning phase,’ which sees the study design report published, develops planning alternatives, evaluates those planning alternatives and selects the preferred alternative.

The alternatives of a tunnel, moveable bridge (lift, bascule or swing) and two-lane fixed bridge will be carried forward to the planning phase, the study states. The ‘do nothing’ option will also be considered “as part of a separate cultural heritage evaluation process.”

Despite repeated attempts to reach out to the head engineers leading the study for clarification on what a ‘cultural heritage evaluation process’ is, The Expositor did not hear back from the engineers as of press time.

In an aerial photograph included in the study, the alternative routes are outlined. Options 2 and 4, both movable bridges, have entry points close to the current swing bridge’s Goat Island entry point. Options 2 crosses the North Channel just west of the current bridge while option 4 crosses just east of the bridge. Option 2 lands on Manitoulin in the approximate area of the Welcome Centre/Manitoulin Hotel while option 4 sees the road begin near Manitoulin Shell’s Vankoughnet Street East bulk plant location. (Option 3 is maintaining the current bridge.)

Both of the fixed bridge and tunnel options, options 5 and 6, cross the North Channel east of the swing bridge, landing in the residential area of Channelview Road.

Al MacNevin, Northeast Town mayor and a Channelview Road resident, said he heard that several property owners received letters from the MTO/Stantec, asking permission to perform soil testing on their properties.

Rob McCallum is one of those property owners. He told The Expositor that he didn’t respond to the letter.

“How do you deal with the government?” he queried.

Mr. McCallum said he will be at tonight’s meeting and plans to ask questions. “I’m going to see what they say first.”

Mr. McCallum said the property owners along Channelview Drive are privileged to have actual water lots, something that is almost unheard of today and not something that would be given up easily.

Mayor MacNevin said options 5 and 6, the ones in his neighbourhood, would need an entire new road system created.

“Option 4 would come in by the old cattle sale barns (Vankoughnet Street East), so all the businesses on the main road would be cut off,” the mayor said. “Option 2 looks like it’s going right through the hotel.”

The mayor questioned the engineers’ efforts on citing the land rather than putting points on a map.

“If they’re serious, there’s going to be a lot of problems,” Mayor MacNevin said. “I’m still picking the ‘do nothing’ option.”

The public information session will be held tonight, Wednesday, July 17, at the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre in Little Current from 4 to 7 pm.