NIPIGON, Ont. – Premier Kathleen Wynne says it’s too early to start blaming the contractor for problems with the Nipigon River Bridge in northern Ontario, which failed on Sunday and severed the sole east-west route across the region for a day.
Speaking in Thunder Bay, where the Ontario cabinet meets on Thursday, Wynne said people should “take a breath” while engineers try to determine exactly what went wrong with the bridge on the Trans-Canada Highway.
She vowed the province will get to the bottom of what happened, fix it, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Wynne also said while she didn’t have time to visit the bridge herself, she sent Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca and Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle to tour the site on Wednesday and get an update.
One lane of the bridge was reopened to cars and some trucks on Monday, but there has been no estimate as to when the bridge will be fully functional.
About 1,300 trucks cross the bridge in Nipigon, Ont., every day, moving about $100 million worth of goods across Canada daily.
“Before we start assigning blame, we need to know what happened,” said Wynne. “We don’t know what caused this, and we need to get to the bottom of that.”
Nipigon Mayor Richard Harvey describes the bridge as “probably one of the most important transportation infrastructure points in the country.”
Cars and most trucks are crossing the bridge about 10 to 15 minutes slower than usual, and officials decide on a “case-by-case basis” whether to allow trucks weighing more than 63,500 kilograms over the bridge.
Truckers lack alternate routes in the area when the bridge is out of service.
They could opt to travel through the United States, but that’s become more difficult post 9-11, when the U.S. beefed up security measures at the border.