THUNDER BAY – EDITORIAL – The Nipigon Bridge failure is going to have ramifications on several levels. The showcase bridge part of the long awaited twinning of the Trans-Canada Highway has only been open for a few short weeks.
In some ways, it is a powerful symbol of “Titanic thinking” that man’s ability to build structures that will withstand the power of Mother Nature continue to this day.
First on the engineering side, the failure of the bolts holding down a part of the bridge are likely to undergo extensive testing. Experts will want to know why they failed.
The temperatures of -30c being reported are the wind chill temperatures. The actual temperature was closer to -20c, or about zero on the old Fahrenheit scale. Those are hardly cold temperatures in Northern Ontario.
There are likely to be a lot of instant engineers who are going to come up with probable causes, but the fact is the experts are likely to gather all the facts and come to a solution that will work.
Armchair critics are likely to espouse on social media all of their expertise.
Second on the political front, the Premier, Minister Michael Gravelle, Minister Bill Mauro and the Minister of Transportation are all likely to get a raw pasting over the failure of the bolts.
The New Democrats and Progressive Conservatives are already on the hunt looking to add political incompetence to the failure of the bridge.
Third, the message across Canada is one of how really vulnerable our Trans-Canada Highway is here in Northwestern Ontario at the Nipigon River.
Realistically, that is the real issue here and the one that we all should be focusing on.
Sadly, on the political side it is more likely, political action will be more limited. Photo-opportunities and efforts to assure residents that swift action will be taken and assurances that the bridge is safe are likely to override action on the bridge.
The idea that Canada is so vulnerable should be an issue resonating at the federal level, as well as the provincial level.
Fortunately, the closure of the bridge was not long, and traffic, especially truck traffic has resumed carrying vital shipments across Canada.
Planning for the future should include making sure that there is a reliable alternative route for Canadians in the event of any future failure of the bridge.