NIPIGON, Ont. — A multimillion-dollar bridge offering the sole east-west route across part of northern Ontario has been partially reopened after sustaining serious damage over the weekend, provincial officials said Monday.
Both the Ontario Provincial Police and the Ministry of Transportation confirmed that one lane of the Nipigon River Bridge has reopened.
A statement from Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca says the lane is available to cars and regular-weight transport trucks, but said engineers are still working to determine whether it can sustain the weight of oversized trucks.
Del Duca said staff worked through the night in order to reopen a route that the province’s premier described as critically important.
“As soon as I heard about the closure of the bridge I was concerned because it is the lifeline in terms of product and transportation in northwestern Ontario,” Kathleen Wynne said. “It connects the east to the west, and there is only that one route.”
The OPP closed the bridge indefinitely on Sunday afternoon when part of the steel decking on the western side separated about 60 centimetres from the rest of the structure. There were no injuries reported, and pedestrians were still able to make use of the bridge.
The OPP did not immediately respond to request for comment.
No one has yet offered an estimate as to when the bridge, which is part of the Trans-Canada highway and spans the Nipigon River, will be fully functional.
The Ontario government began building what it touts as the province’s first cable-stayed bridge in 2013 and opened westbound lanes to two-way traffic in November. The project, which the government pegs at $106 million, is due to be completed in 2017.
Ontario Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle is planning to visit the site on Monday to assess the extent of the damage, and Wynne indicated Del Duca is planning to inspect the site on Tuesday.