Preferred decision for swing bridge replacement expected to be presented in new year

Photo by Warren Schlote

LITTLE CURRENT – The proposed preferred alignment and bridge type for the Little Current swing bridge replacement is expected to be presented to the public this winter.

“The Little Current bridge replacement study is moving forward. We continue with design investigations to help determine the preferred alignment and bridge type,” Carole Paiement, communications co-ordinator with the North East operation of the Ministry of Transportation (MTO), told the Recorder this past Monday.

Ms. Paiement explained, “the ministry will be presenting the preferred alignment and bridge type to the public in winter of 2021, as part of a public information centre. This consultation will be made available through a variety of channels including online.”

As was reported in August, Stantec, the engineering firm, is undertaking the next stage of a multi-year planning, preliminary design and environmental assessment (EA) process to determine how to best overhaul or replace the century-old swing bridge.

Stantec had notified the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands (NEMI) that it would be starting the archaeological and geotechnical assessment portions of the project.

It was explained that the stage two assessments are a requirement of the Ministry of Heritage, Sport and Tourism and Culture Industries and involves carrying out the digging of test pits, down at least five centimetres into the subsoil, and screening soil through six-millimetre hardware cloth to determine if there is any cultural material present that needs to be collected.

The geotechnical investigation was to include Stantec drilling both in-water and on-land boreholes to determine the conditions of the subsurface and bedrock materials in the area. Information gathered from the test work will be included in Stantec’s final report.

Stantec had been selected in 2018 as the successful bidder on the $2.5 million contract; this came after the MTO announced in 2017 that the bridge had deteriorated  to the point that it would need to have a major overhaul or be replaced entirely.

Built in 1912, the single-lane structure was designed by the Algoma Eastern Railway to handle rail traffic only, but by 1946 this had been modified to handle both rail and vehicular traffic.

Rail traffic ceased in the 1980s and the MTO took over operation of the bridge in 1983.

The alternatives that have or are being considered for the bridge include a new swing bridge, bascule bridge, lift bridge, high level bridge or submarine tunnel

The five options that remain in consideration for the eventual replacement of the current swing bridge, that MTO and Stantec Consulting Limited presented at public meetings in the summer of 2019, include: a new swing bridge with a projected cost of $140 million; a bascule bridge at a projected cost of $130 million; a lift bridge at a projected cost of $130 million; a high level bridge at a projected cost of $150 million; and a submarine tunnel at a projected cost of $500 million.