It is long past time to think pragmatically about the Little Current Swing Bridge

No more howling at the moon and dreaming of the past

To the Expositor:

In consideration of the imaginative remarks that have recently been made regarding the future of the Little Current Swing Bridge, surely it is time to think pragmatically about the issue.

The three following facts about the bridge should be obvious to everyone: The bridge is technically obsolete; a serious impediment to and from the Island; and already dangerously unreliable. A number of options for renewal have been put forward and there must be other imaginative solutions waiting out there. These four proposed options should encourage more imaginative thinking. The first would be to build a causeway from the north to the south side of the channel in a location to the west of the existing structure. Large quantities of quarried rock are potentially available in the immediate area to provide the fill. To enable water flow to continue in the channel, a number of large diameter culverts could be embedded within the causeway.  Advantages of this type of permanent structure are all weather reliability; capability of handling heavy loads; and multi-lane traffic. This simple engineering concept appears to be cheap, but does have the disadvantage in that it would prevent large boat traffic and perhaps require two separate marinas to be developed in the future.

The second option would be to build a new high level bridge from the north to the south. Such a structure would require significant clearance from the water level to allow for boat traffic as well as major renovations to the south bank to create space for ramp access on the south side. This type of engineering structure would be expensive as well as requiring major road realignment on the Island side. It would also create a new imposing visual structure over the Little Current harbour.

An option already proposed is an in-ground tunnel beneath the channel as a direct extension of Hwy 6 south of the electrical substation. The tunnel could then proceed south to either one or two exit portals on the Island. In addition to a geotechnical investigation of depths of various rock formations in the area, a traffic planning process should be undertaken to improve traffic patterns in Little Current. Some of the advantages of this type of project are the option to minimize changes to existing urban traffic; no obstruction or visual impact to homes on the south side; and no obstruction to the marine traffic during and after construction. Some other incidental advantages of a tunnel would be no significant changes to the existing visual environment; an option to route underground a part of the Manitoulin electrical supply; no obstruction to marine traffic during construction; and finally the potential for a large quantity of aggregate for use on the Island.

The main concern about the entire bridge issue is to discover what emergency plan is in place to allow continuous traffic movement if the current swing bridge fails catastrophically. Heavy industrial activity such as logging, quarrying, and other business is continuous on Manitoulin. One solution frequently employed in these situations is the construction of a temporary Bailey Bridge. Surely some government file contains information on the emergency plan. The public must be informed as to the proposed emergency plan. What delay should the public anticipate until a new transportation corridor is available if and when the bridge fails?

It appears some people on Manitoulin consider old bridges to have historic value. If this is the case, MTO could consider transfer of the old bridge to interested municipalities for a minimum fee, plus maintenance costs, thereby allowing those municipalities to assume control and responsibility for the swing bridge.

Many residents on Manitoulin are quite capable of thinking about future development on the Island rather than behaving like troglodytic Neanderthals, sitting on the shore scratching their bellies, while howling at the moon and dreaming of the past.

Pentti Palonen