Ontario PCs Accuse Government of Nipigon Bridge Report Delay

Nipigon Bridge - Image by Christine White
Nipigon Bridge - Image by Christine White
Nipigon Bridge - Image by Christine White
Nipigon Bridge – Image by Christine White

Full Report Out in Fall on Nipigon Bridge

THUNDER BAY – The Nipigon Bridge failure this past winter has heated up as the Progressive Conservatives are demanding the full release of the reports received by the Minister of Transportation.

Ontario PC Transportation Critic Michael Harris issued a letter to the Premier today demanding that test results on the bolts and MTO analysis integral to the January 10th Nipigon Bridge failure be publicized immediately.

“I’ve been contacted by many who are concerned with the Transportation Ministry and Minister of Northern Development and Mines’ recent comments that test findings will be held back from publication pending further investigation,” Harris wrote. “Given the circumstances and implications related to the failure of this taxpayer funded vital bridge connection, [I ask that] you direct officials to release those findings as soon as possible. Further, given that the Ministry has had 7 months to do its own analysis and report – that information should be made public immediately. ”

Press Conference with Minister of Transportation

(January 10 2916)

Harris’ letter to the Premier comes in the wake of comments by the Northern Development Minister that, despite the completion of 6 months of testing on the bolts that were suspected in the failure of the bridge only 42 days after opening, he wouldn’t be releasing the results, “Because we need to know the full reason why this happened.”

“Look, for seven months now we’ve waited while unanswered questions have grown as to how a $106 million dollar project that directly impacted this vital trade conduit to the west could have failed only weeks after opening,” said Harris. “We’ve waited long enough. Taxpayers are owed an explanation, and government now has some answers, it’s time to let us in on the secret!”

Harris’ letter noted that as one of the few connecting links between Eastern and Western Canada, the Nipigon Bridge represents an essential trade channel that is relied upon for the transportation of $100 million worth of goods.

“Given the significance of the bridge, the fact that taxpayers are owed an explanation for rapid failure of a $106-million bridge rebuild, and the list of serious questions that have only grown in the months following the incident, I feel it’s incumbent on your government to suspend further efforts to stall in releasing the test information and report the findings as soon as possible,” Harris concluded. “If the bolts were, or were not, the cause, the public deserves to know. And if they were not, then government needs to come clean on its role in this regrettable, costly failure.

Ontario Minister of Transportation, Steven Del Duca MPP issued the following statement:

“Since day one, I have been open and transparent about what happened with the Nipigon River Bridge, because I believe it is important to share information with Ontarians on this very serious matter.

“Any assertion that the Ministry of Transportation is hiding information is false and represents an unfortunate attempt by the opposition party (or parties) to politicize a process that is being led by engineers and other appropriate experts and research bodies with respect to what happened with the bridge.‎ ‎ Since January 11th, 29 public updates have been posted on the Ministry of Transportation’s website, and countless media calls have been responded to with the latest and most factual information available.‎ ‎ A number of days ago, the ministry received the final reports on the bolt testing. These reports constitute only one part of the comprehensive investigation that is ongoing.

“The bolt testing looked at very specific things — for example:  were the bolts properly manufactured, did they meet specifications, and did they react as they should in cold temperatures. ‎ Ministry bridge engineers are continuing their thorough analysis to determine what happened to the bridge.  At the same time, an independent engineering consultant with expertise in cable stayed bridges, Associated Engineering (Ont.) Ltd., is conducting their own analysis.

“From my perspective, releasing limited information in piecemeal fashion prior to having all of the facts does not help us get to the root cause of the bridge failure. Doing so would be irresponsible and I am disappointed that Patrick Brown and the Ontario Conservatives are recommending this reckless approach.

“When the entire investigation is completed, which we expect will be in the fall, the reports, expert findings and details from the engineers will be made public. This is the prudent approach, not the political one, and it will provide all Ontarians with the information they expect and deserve regarding this incident.”

A request for comment on releasing the partial report to Minister Del Duca’s office resulted in this response: “No preliminary reports have been released. As per the Minister’s statement, ministry engineers as well as an engineering consultant are currently undergoing a thorough analysis of the bridge structure (the bolts constitute only one part of our comprehensive investigation). Once investigation has been completed and reviewed, it will be made public – expecting the fall.”

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