Local MP Don Rusnak was in Rainy River last Thursday to announce more than $13 million in federal funding for the project to replace the international bridge at Rainy River-Baudette.
Construction is set to begin in early 2018.
“It’s a good thing, it’s definitely a good thing,” Rainy River Mayor Deb Ewald told the Times on Monday.
The plan is for a continuous steel I-girder bridge to be built three feet upstream (south) of the existing bridge, allowing the old one to be used during construction.
Ewald noted the replacement bridge won’t have any trusses, which will improve sight distances as well as not restrict the height of vehicles passing over it.
The new bridge, which will remain toll-free, also will feature wider lanes and an improved load capacity.
“Hopefully it will mean we get more commercial vehicles coming through and more business in Rainy River,” Mayor Ewald said.
The bridge replacement project has gone through the initiation and planning stages, and currently is in the preliminary design phase.
“They have been doing lots of consultations and community meetings on both sides of the border,” Mayor Ewald noted.
“The responses have been mostly positive and any new upgrade is going to be good,” she added.
Mayor Ewald pointed out the bridge is vital for the two close communities separated by the Rainy River and the international border.
She added the local schools often work together, Rainy River residents enjoy Baudette’s pool, and many travellers use the bridge as a faster route to Manitoba.
“People are excited for a new bridge,” Mayor Ewald reiterated.
“I am definitely looking forward to it’s completion, even if it will be a couple of years.”
Mayor Ewald noted the current bridge was built by the U.S. for around $1.4 million in 1959, with Canada doing the roadwork leading up to the bridge costing around $400,000.
That bridge now is at the end of its service life, and will be decommissioned and removed following completion of the new bridge.
The replacement project is an equal collaboration between Canada and the U.S., with the Ontario government now responsible for all remaining costs for the Canadian portion of the investment.
The $13 million from the federal government came through the Major Infrastructure Component of the Building Canada Fund.
“The Government of Canada is committed to investing in infrastructure projects that contribute to economic development, create middle-class jobs, and improve the quality of life of Canadians,” said Rusnak, who made the announcement on behalf of Infrastructure and Communities minister Amarjeet Sohi.
“The replacement of the Rainy River-Baudette international bridge will support tourism and trade between Canada and the United States, and foster long-term prosperity today and in the future,” he noted.
“The new [bridge] will be an important connection and will serve the people of Northwestern Ontario well,” echoed Thunder Bay-Superior North MPP and Northern Development and Mines minister Michael Gravelle, speaking on behalf of Transportation minister Steven Del Duca.
“Ontario is a world leader in moving people and goods safely, efficiently, and sustainably, and this new bridge will help us ensure we remain a world leader,” he added.
The international bridge at Rainy River-Baudette is jointly owned by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and the Minnesota Department of Transportation.