MTO making no allowances in swing bridge crossing cycle for holiday weekend traffic

LITTLE CURRENT – Many motorists will have noticed a change in the swing bridge’s operation this summer with a short stoplight cycle that allows only seven or eight cars to pass at a time.

At an August meeting of the Northeast Town council, Mayor Al MacNevin noted this change at the council table and reminded those present that the new cycle had nothing to do with the mechanical issue the bridge has been facing in recent years.

“The cycle used to be manually overridden,” the mayor told council. “That’s not the bridge being broken; that’s the way they’re running it.”

Mayor MacNevin explained that, previously, the bridge operators would judge when an increased flow of traffic would require a longer signal, such as Haweater Weekend.

On the Monday of Haweater, the shorter light cycle caused the traffic to be backed up 1.5 kilometres as far back as Barney’s Bargain Barn on Highway 540/Worthington Street.

It was also noted that the shorter light cycle means more people are running the red light, thereby causing a vicious circle of cars not being able to utilize the already short green light.

The Ministry of Transportation, which oversees the operations of the swing bridge, however, does not agree with the mayor that a change has been made.

“Staff have reviewed the signal timing at the Little Current Swing Bridge and have verified that no changes have been made to the signal timing, an email from an MTO media spokesperson told The Expositor. “If vehicles are not complying when the traffic signal turns red, this could result in reduced green signal time available to traffic from the opposing direction. The ministry will request the Ontario Provincial Police to consider this location for increased enforcement action.”

The MTO suggested motorists use the overflow lanes to facilitate traffic.

The MTO also noted that bridge operators can manually extend the green signal time, but only by exception. “The signals function by the programmed timing under normal operational circumstances.”

The Expositor asked if a long weekend with increased traffic would constitute as an exception. The ministry replied that no, “the bridge operator would not consider long weekend traffic an exception to override the signal function on the swing bridge.”