Trans-Canada Highway route severed in Ontario after bridge damaged
The Nipigon River Bridge has reportedly split apart, causing a major segment of the Trans-Canada Highway to be shut down "indefinitely." (511ONNorthwestern / Twitter)
A bridge in northern Ontario has split apart, causing a major segment of the Trans-Canada Highway to be shut down "indefinitely."
Ontario Province Police say that they received a report Sunday afternoon that the Nipigon River Bridge on Highway 11-17 -- roughly 120 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, Ont. -- had "lifted" and was blocking traffic.
When authorities arrived at the scene they found that the west side of the bridge was jutting about 60 centimetres above the road, OPP said.
No one was injured, and no vehicles were damaged as a result of the incident.
The OPP tweeted earlier Sunday that the bridge has been closed "indefinitely" in both directions for repairs.
However, the crossing remains open to pedestrian traffic.
Highway 17 is the primary route of the Trans-Canada Highway through Ontario, which is the only road that connects Eastern and Western Canada. Its closure is expected to have a major impact on surrounding communities.
In a statement, Ontario Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca confirmed that provincial engineers were on site inspecting the bridge and looking for ways to “ensure the bridge can reopen safely to traffic as soon as possible.”
Del Duca added that he’s been in touch with local politicians and OPP to ensure that surrounding communities have all the information necessary.
Nipigon Mayor Richard Harvey told The Canadian Press that engineers are working to determine extent of the damage and its cause.
"We're not sure exactly what the damage to the bridge is at this point," said Harvey.
He added that it's not clear when the crossing will reopen, and the main alternative to the route involves a long detour through the U.S.
Harvey said that municipality will examine other options in hopes of opening the bridge to at least some vehicle traffic.
"This is something that, in our emergency preparedness in this area, we have run scenarios for and we do have options on how we would fairly quickly get traffic moving if there is a more serious issue," Harvey said.
"There are alternate routes that we could, with a little bit of work, open up to get at least some traffic moving again."
The Nipigon River Bridge has recently undergone construction to add two new lanes. The project was completed in November.
In response to the closure, the nearby town of Greenstone has declared a state of emergency.
Patty Hajdu, MP for Thunder Bay-Superior North urged locals stranded by the bridge closure to call the Nipigon Community Centre for emergency lodging.
If you're stuck on highway 11/17 in Nipigon, call the Nipigon Community Centre @ 807-887-3585 for emergency lodging. #tbay— Patty Hajdu (@PattyHajdu) January 10, 2016
With files from The Canadian Press