An engineering expert says builders will face challenges in erecting the new Nipigon River bridge.

Tony Gillies, associate professor of civil engineering at Lakehead University, said one advantage of cable bridges is that they support themselves as they are built — but there is still the terrain of the area to deal with.

"Geology, in particular, is always a challenge to designers," he said, noting that during excavation the terrain can change from a rocky surface to deep muskeg within a short distance.

Gillies said the northern climate is another factor, and pointed out that icicles have been forming on a similar style of bridge in British Columbia, and falling ice has caused some damage to vehicles.

"[But as for safety], the bridge deck is supported by multiple cables," he said. "Breaking one cable is not going to trigger a catastrophic collapse of the bridge," he said.

The bridge will be an enhancement to the Nipigon River, and Gilles said he is really impressed the ministry is taking the extra effort to do something aesthetically pleasing. He noted this style of bridge has been popular in other parts of Canada and the world since 1950, but none exist in Ontario.

"Well it's not record-breaking in terms of length, or span or anything like that," he said. "But it's going to be unique in Ontario."