Future of old bridge in limbo

The 15-tonne weight restriction in effect for the bridge at Sioux Narrows not only has created headaches for district businesses and farmers that depend on trucks to deliver their goods, it also raises some troubling questions for the Ministry of Transportation.
For instance, what is to become of the old bridge when a temporary one opens early in the new year?
Since the 70-year-old structure is touted as the world’s longest single-span wooden bridge, and a designated heritage site, demolishing it may not be in the cards.
MTO media relations officer Bob Nichols said the issue has not been ignored.
“We’re currently involved in a planning study,” he remarked Tuesday from his office in Toronto. “All our options are open.”
Those options include beefing up the existing structure to meet modern standards, incorporating all or part of it in a new structure, leaving it as and working around it, or tearing it down altogether.
The problem is further complicated by the tight space restrictions at Sioux Narrows where Highway 71 crosses Lake of the Woods, which makes it difficult to build a permanent new bridge while the old one is still in place.
Nichols added MTO is not working in a vacuum and will seek public input into the various solutions being considered before a final decision is made.
“We’ll be holding a public meeting later in the fall, where we will present our preferred option,” he explained. He did not expand on what that may be, but emphasized it will take into account the concerns of all interested parties.
“Public input is critical,” he stressed. “We know it [the bridge] has a lot of traditional and sentimental value.”
The bridge was closed late last month to all traffic over 15 tonnes after severe structural flaws were discovered. It had been restricted to a single lane since March.
A temporary bridge is scheduled to open to regular traffic sometime in January.
(Fort Frances Times)