No timeframe for new double-lane swing bridge contruction

An artist’s rendering of the new double-lane swing bridge.

LITTLE CURRENT – Engineers reporting on the Little Current swing bridge study spoke to Northeast Town council last Tuesday night, March 30, the same day the preferred option to replace the 108-year-old swing bridge was announced.

Gregg Cooke, a consultant project manager with engineering firm Stantec; Melissa Delfino, senior project engineer with the Ministry of Transportation (MTO); and Kristin Franks, MTO regional issues and media advisor, attended the March 30 meeting to review the MTO’s preferred option of a double-lane swing bridge.

Mr. Cooke reviewed the document with council which outlines the new swing bridge as MTO’s preferred structure to replace the existing bridge and explained how Stantec came to this decision and recommendation.

“We’re hopeful the public and municipality will be supportive of the preferred plan,” Mr. Cooke said, noting the swingbridgestudy.ca website had already garnered half a dozen responses on the day of the release.

When opening the floor for questions, Councillor Michael Erskine was the first to ask what was undoubtedly on everyone’s minds: “Do we have any clear sense on when this project might be entertained?” Mr. Cooke said they did not have a timeframe and that the next step would be to gain environmental clearance and then it is up to the MTO. He reassured council that the ministry would continue to maintain the bridge’s upkeep until that day comes.

Councillor Al Boyd asked what consideration had been given for traffic flow when the bridge changeover occurs and what time of year it might happen, given the channel’s busy navigable waters status.

“Preliminarily, the new bridge is located so that the existing bridge can stay in operation,” Mr. Cooke responded, noting that the engineers envision floating the new bridge into place outside of the busy traffic season with the commissioning and testing to be done, all at the same time, in a relatively quick turnaround.

Mayor Al MacNevin asked about the plan for the old route, as the video shown on the swing bridge study website shows greenery where the highway presently leads to the shore’s edge on the north side. The mayor asked if a plaque would be placed at the old site, or some other historical marker. Mr. Cooke said it was important to document these suggestions now, as the public information centre is available for comment on the study site until April 30.

Councillor Bill Koehler asked why the new approach couldn’t start more to the east and land where the same spot as the current bridge does on the Island side so as not to interfere with the park located between the bridge operator’s parking lot and the welcome centre. Mr. Cooke said this would not be doable as the approach would interfere with the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference and 3 Cows and a Cone.

The mayor complimented the study group, calling it a “balanced review of the public consultation.” He reminded the group that council supported the west side approach. “I think you did a really good job of balancing out some of these issues and I hope to see the project underway at some point in my lifetime.”

To comment on the preferred double-lane swing bridge option as chosen by the MTO, visit surveymonkey.com/r/3NQKBFB between now and April 30.