MANITOULIN – The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) will be presenting its preferred plan for the replacement of the Swing Bridge in Little Current to the public this summer and by the end of the year will present a final recommended plan.
Kristin Franks, regional issues and media advisor for the MTO Northeastern Region told the Recorder this past Monday, “MTO is wrapping up its review of options for the bridge, including potential crossing alternatives and locations. As part of this study, we are looking at all the comments we received from the public at two public information centre held in August 2018 and July 2019.”
Ms. Franks explained, “we are working with the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture to make sure we address requirements under the Ontario Heritage Bridge guidelines. In summer 2020 MTO will present our preferred plan at a Public Information Centre. In late 2020 we will make a Transportation Environmental Study Report available for public review. The report will document the entire study, including the final recommended plan. No decisions have been made at this time.”
As has been reported previously the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport has several prescribed bridge conservation options for the heritage aspect of the swing bridge. The options in consideration include keeping the old bridge with a sympathetically designed new structure nearby; keeping the existing bridge in place, adapted for new uses but not for roadway use; keeping the bridge as a heritage monument for viewing purposes only; relocating the bridge to a new site for continued or adapted use; or removing and replacing the bridge with a sympathetically designed structure.
The five options that remain in consideration for the eventual replacement of the current swing bridge, that MTO and Stantec Consulting Limited presented at the public meetings last summer 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.
A bascule bridge, one that has two sides which angle up and out of the way of tall marine traffic like a drawbridge, would maintain the current navigational clearance of 48 metres. However, it would have only one navigation channel rather than the existing two. The submarine tunnel bridge would include a tunnel under the North Channel that would require even steeper road grade approaches (more than seven percent) than a fixed bridge, but it would provide for unlimited vertical and horizontal clearance for boat traffic. It is also much more reliable than a movable bridge because it has no mechanical components.
Ms. Franks added, “the project website (www.swingbridgestudy.ca) will provide general project information, updates and notices of upcoming meetings and milestones.”