Manitoulin Municipal Association calls for meeting with MTO minister

New Swing Bridge plans.

Municipal leaders seek update on Swing Bridge replacement

PROVIDENCE BAY—The Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) is requesting a meeting with the Ontario Minister of Transportation (MTO) to get an update from the ministry in regard to the replacement of the swing bridge in Little Current.

“I’m sure I’m not the only one with concerns on what is happening, if there has been anything new in terms of the plans to replace the bridge,” said Gordon/Barrie Island Reeve Lee Hayden at an MMA meeting last week. “I know there have been several issues mechanically with the bridge this summer and fall.”

“I just don’t want this issue to fall off the radar,” stated Mr. Hayden. “I want to hear about the plans to replace the bridge.”

Al MacNevin said that a team of council delegates from the town of NEMI attended the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and met with Caroline Mulroney, MTO minister this summer. “We went for two reasons, one to open up communications between the MTO and our town staff about bridge breakdowns and delays, as our staff have to direct traffic away from the bridge when it is broken down or being worked on.”

“The second reason was to get an update on the bridge replacement,” said Mr. MacNevin. “Every time the MTO undertakes a project like this, they have to go through an environmental process. And I understand now they are going through the cultural and historical significance of the bridge. It looks as if they will replace the present bridge with a similar one (with two lanes) and will have some form of commemoration of the history and structure of the bridge and the (new bridge’s) sympathetic design will be reminiscent of the original. At the meeting we had with the minister she had indicated that the design for the new bridge would be complete by the end of the year, and then we heard it would be early in the new year (2023). I don’t think they have a definite date.”

“The proposed concept model is good. But at the end of the day they (province) will also have to budget (for the new bridge),” said Mr. MacNevin. “There was no commitment on the timeline that they would build the new bridge. They only mentioned the design work.”
“This affects the whole Island,” said Mr. Hayden. “People are asking when we will be getting a new bridge. I’m just wondering what our group can do, and if we have any leverage to get some answers on all of this. I just don’t want to see this fall off the radar. Every time there is a mechanical breakdown on the bridge, we are one step closer to the bridge closing permanently.”

Mr. MacNevin said NEMI would continue to call for meetings with the minister at the Ontario Good Roads Association annual conference and other meetings in the new year. He encouraged other municipalities to be part of or ask for delegations to speak to the minister. “If we get a delegation with the minister I can tell you and if another municipality gets a meeting with the minister, maybe we can piggyback on this meeting,” said Mr. MacNevin.

“The trick is to not stop talking about this issue,” said Mr. MacNevin.

“I am just hoping we can get a progress report and to get back on track talking about this issue,” reiterated Mr. Hayden.

Mr. MacNevin noted that the MTO understands the concerns with the bridge, including several breakdowns, and one day the bridge will not be able to swing open.

“We do need to have an update and get some answers to our questions,” said Central Mayor Richard Stephens.

The MMA members passed a motion to request a meeting with MTO Minister Mulroney to discuss concerns and update of the new bridge status and a commitment on timelines for construction.