LITTLE CURRENT—The Expositor received news from the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) this week that for the first time in the century-plus history of the Little Current Swing Bridge, during the busy summer months the bridge will now be swinging every half hour.
The Ontario government announced that recent market analysis has shown that the summer of 2015 is expected to be a busy one for boating tourists, thanks in part to the low value of the Canadian dollar, which will benefit our American neighbours, and the drop in gas prices. It is this news, and through consultation with marine tourism stakeholders, that has led to this historic decision.
While this could be welcome news for marinas, and Manitoulin’s North Channel port communities and their businesses, the delay in traffic the increased swings will bring, coupled with the work on the Highway 6 culvert in Espanola, also this summer, has many people up in arms. This includes Northeast Town Mayor Al MacNevin.
The mayor told The Expositor he is “incensed” by this move, saying he can’t understand the logic behind it. He is also annoyed that the Town of Espanola could not plan the work on the culvert repairs at a more convenient time, for example during the tourism off-season.
“Traffic will be backed up to the intersection of Highway 540 at any given time,” he said. “It takes the bridge 15 minutes to swing—that means there’s only half an hour out of each hour to get across. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
He said that the denial of Infrastructure Ontario grants over the last couple of years, and now this, is leading him to believe that perhaps the provincial government has a vendetta against his community. “Maybe it’s all a conspiracy to shut this town down,” he said, anger in his voice. “Or maybe the Manitoulin Planning Board is behind it.”
The delays in Highway 6 traffic, as a result of both the bridge and the culvert work, could mean monumental traffic backups.
A public relations representative from the MTO told this newspaper that the increase in swings this year is a pilot project, one that is hoped to increase boater traffic and visitors by rubber tire, as the ‘swing’ is a tourist attraction in itself.
But then again, this paper is dated April 1, so…