Some Gore Bay council members feel alternative option should have been chosen for swing bridge replacement

Some members of Gore Bay council aren’t pleased with the Ministry of Transportation option of a double-lane swing bridge to replace the current structure.

MANITOULIN – The proposed option for replacement of the current swing bridge—a similar swing bridge, but with two lanes for traffic (instead of one)—is not supported by at least two Gore Bay municipal council representatives who feel another option should have been chosen. As well, a Gordon/Barrie Island municipal representative feels that the project needs to be completed in less than the five to 10 years. 

“The engineers, Stantec and the MTO (Ministry of Transportation) are asking for comments on the proposed plan for the swing bridge,” said Gore Bay Mayor Dan Osborne at a council meeting last week. “I know (councillor) Jack (Clark) has submitted a list of points on this issue. I think that when this whole process started and everyone provided input, they already had their decision in mind.” 

“All I want is the two lanes of traffic, I really don’t care about the rest of it,” said Councillor Kevin Woestenenk. 

“I put my comments in, my personal views, but if there is a municipal view this should be sent,” suggested Mayor Osborne. 

“It doesn’t sound like it’s going to matter,” said Councillor Ken Blodgett. 

Mayor Osborne said in the letter that he sent, “I said that they should be looking at an overhead bridge, to provide low maintenance, be more reliable, not have moving parts and traffic would never have to stop. And the design they had for this bridge option wouldn’t have affected any of the businesses in the downtown (Little Current) area. As for the views off the bridge, they were wrecked years ago with the windmills and lights being installed, but I think this is all water under the bridge, this is what they decided do to and what we will get.”

“I’m not sure a community response would hold more weight that an individual response,” said Councillor Clark.

Councillor Clark told the Recorder after the meeting, “basically I disagree with the option that has been chosen because it will still restrict marine traffic and road traffic. And the biggest thing is that what is being proposed would mean another mechanical bridge, which means the potential is still there for it to break down and get stuck in the middle.”

“I have read that it could take as many as 10 years to complete the bridge. This is too long,” stated Lee Hayden, reeve of Gordon/Barrie Island, last week. “This project needs to get to the forefront, and we need to get everyone on the Island and off-Island to put pressure on the engineers and the province to get this done.” 

“We can’t wait 10 years, we have been waiting long enough, and with the current bridge we are on borrowed time (with potential breakdowns),” said Reeve Hayden.

Stantec engineer Gregg Cooke told council for the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands recently that it is expected the construction of a new bridge could take anywhere between five to 10 years to complete due to ongoing consultations and studies.
The next step in the project in replacing the swing bridge is to complete an environmental assessment study, then getting environmental clearance followed by the MTO laying out a construction schedule.

“The option chosen to have a two-lane bridge will be a plus to what we have right now,” continued Reeve Hayden. “I can understand they looked at the costs of all the options as well.” 

“I’m in favour of the option that has been chosen. I think it’s going to satisfy the majority of the people and meet the needs of the Island.”

Reeve Hayden said one thing he would like to see changed, “is for them to revisit the opening times for boating traffic going under through the swing bridge. I see the need being there for boaters, but it is an inconvenience to have the bridge opened on the hour in the summer for boats to get through. When the bridge was down for repairs it was only opened two or three times a day. I think this should be revisited and looked at permanently.”

Members of the public have until April 30 to review and provide feedback on the proposal chosen by the MTO.