Nipigon Bridge Heaves – Cold Weather Impact

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The Nipigon Bridge has heaved and is now closed pending inspection from engineers
The Nipigon Bridge has heaved and is now closed pending inspection from engineers

The Nipigon Bridge has heaved and is now closed pending inspection from engineers
The Nipigon Bridge has heaved and is now closed pending inspection from engineers – Image Facebook Natalie Hardy

THUNDER BAY – DEVELOPING – The Nipigon Bridge has been closed due to cold weather. Reports are that the bridge heaved.

OPP are advising that the Highway is closed. The highway closure effectively closes travel by road across Canada. The option now is for vehicles headed west or east to detour through the United States. Westbound traffic from Thunder Bay would have to travel south to the Pigeon River Border crossing and then from Duluth to Sault Ste Marie.

Lake Helen First Nation Band Office is having an emergency meeting right now to handle situation. There are many people who are on route and will need access to gas and food on the east side of bridge. It is looking like the highway at Sault Ste Marie will be closed except to local traffic as well as at Highway 11 to prevent large numbers of people getting stranded.

Update: 20:05EST – If you’re stuck on Highway 11/17 in Nipigon, call the Nipigon Community Centre at 807-887-3585 for emergency lodging.

Update – 19:08EST – As of January 10, 2016 7:08 pm the community of Lake Helen Reserve has Declared a State of Emergency due to the uncertainty of the re-opening of the Nipigon River Bridge.  As of right now the bridge is open to foot traffic for emergencies only. Shuttle service is available to drive you home once you arrive on the east side of the bridge.

Amenities are limited but there are resources and ways people can get it. The Lake Helen Resource Center is open to stranded motorists.

Update – 19:14EST – Greenstone – The Municipality of Greenstone has declared a State of Emergency due to the closure of the Nipigon Bridge.

Update – 19:10EST –  The Ministry of Transportation advises the motoring public that Highway 11/17 is closed at the Nipigon River Bridge. Safety is our top priority. Conditions are currently being assessed and additional details on estimated time for opening of the highway will be provided when they become available.

For the latest information on highway closures, the public can call 511, MTO’s Road Information Line or check www.ontario.ca/511.

Update – 19:05EST – Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs states, “We’ll assess the situation and call the EOC if necessary. Open up a community center or two or three and call the Red Cross and Salvation Army if necessary. Traffic will have to cross at Pigeon River.”

Update – 18:33EST – Thunder Bay Superior North MPP Michael Gravelle reports that he is being informed that the bolts that connected the bridge have broken. Engineers are examining the situation to find a solution.

The City of Thunder Bay is looking at what plans should be implemented at this hour.

Richard Harvey the Mayor of Nipigon, has opened the Nipigon Community Centre has a place for stranded travellers to gather.

 

Traffic has started to back up on Highway 11 17
Traffic has started to back up on Highway 11 17 – Photo by Darlene Wawia

The closure has impacted members of the Red Rock Indian Band. Highway 11/17 is CLOSED until further notice. Currently the MTO and the OPP have not offered estimates as to how long a repair will take.

Please contact the Band Office (807-887-2510) to let us know who is here on the Reserve and if you have any family members on the Nipigon side of the Bridge.

The Emergency Preparedness Plan has been activated and the Emergency Operations Centre is at the Band Office.

Information will be sent out as soon as we are notified and confirm information.

The Band Office phone line will be kept open for emergency only. Text or call:
Councillor Sean Ruth 807-889-1066
Councillor Linda Michelle 807-889-0931
Emergency Preparedness Coordinator 807-889-0535
Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Hardy 807-889-1041

Alternative Routes

South from Thunder Bay around the south side of the lake
South from Thunder Bay around the south side of the lake

Heading back is a long haul for motorists. To get to Greenstone is almost twenty hours. That involves heading south from Thunder Bay to Duluth. There are toll roads involved in parts of this route.

The easiest ways from Winnipeg to Sault Ste Marie are either through the states, or from Thunder Bay to Pigeon River Crossing and down through Duluth.

Map showing one alternative route from Winnipeg to Sault Ste Marie
Map showing one alternative route from Winnipeg to Sault Ste Marie
Traffic impact will be huge depending on how long the Nipigon Bridge is going to be closed
Traffic impact will be huge depending on how long the Nipigon Bridge is going to be closed
Hatch Mott MacDonald is providing construction administration and technical oversight of the new Nipigon River Bridge, Ontario-s first cable-stayed bridge. Located along the TransCanada Highway east of Thunder Bay, the $106 million bridge is scheduled to open in the near future. (CNW Group/HATCH)
Hatch Mott MacDonald is providing construction administration and technical oversight of the new Nipigon River Bridge, Ontario-s first cable-stayed bridge. Located along the TransCanada Highway east of Thunder Bay, the $106 million bridge is scheduled to open in the near future. (CNW Group/HATCH)