Province aims to open another lane of Nipigon bridge by end of Feb.
The Ontario Provincial Police posted this photo on Twitter on the damaged Nipigon River Bridge on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016. (Ontario Provincial Police via Twitter / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Christina Commisso, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, January 19, 2016 1:00PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 19, 2016 1:48PM EST
Ontario's Transportation Minister says he's confident the province will re-open Nipigon River Bridge to two-lanes by the end of February.
The cable-stayed bridge has been reduced to one lane following the failure of the structure, which connects east and west travel in the Ontario's north, earlier this month.
Part of the bridge's steel decking separated and rose about 60 centimetres on Jan. 10.
This week two independent labs started work in Nipigon, Ont. to determine what caused the bridge to fail and develop a permanent solution. The faculty of engineering at Western University and the National Research Council of Canada will conduct a visual and chemical analysis of the bolts used on the bridge.
Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said the testing will help the ministry determine the cause of the failure and develop a permanent solution.
During a teleconference on Monday, Del Duca said that, in order to complete the work, short-term full bridge closures of up to two hours will be necessary during off-peak traffic hours.
Del Duca said, since the bridge has been reduced to one lane, the average wait time to cross has been between five and 10 minutes.
He said a "flagging system" is being used to get traffic from one side of the bridge to the other, and a pace car is being used in front of "each convoy of traffic" that moves across the structure.
Oversized trucks weighing more than 63,500 kilograms are being assessed on a case-by-case basis to determine if they can safely cross the bridge, or have to take a lengthy detour through the United States instead.
"We continue to monitor the flow at which traffic is moving and my understanding is that this is performing rather reasonably well at this point in time," Del Duca said.
It's estimated that approximately 1,300 trucks cross the Nipigon River Bridge daily, carrying approximately $100 million in cargo.
"Recognizing that this is a crucial link, not only for the communities in the direct area, but also from an economic standpoint… the ministry is working as hard as we can, and as fast as we can, to safely reopen both lanes of traffic," Del Duca said.
The new bridge opened in November 2015, to replace an existing two-lane bridge over the Nipigon River. It's the first cable-stay bridge constructed in Ontario.
The province paused dismantling the old bridge until a "complete solution" for the new bridge is established.
Del Duca said the cable-stayed bridge was designed to withstand winds in excess of 100 km/h and freezing temperatures well below - 40C.
Transportation officials said the province decided on a cable-stayed bridge because of environmental factors, and because the design would allow for four lanes traffic as well as a pedestrian walkway.