Fort Frances town council to ask senior levels of government to make international bridge public
Concerns over bridge maintenance, tolls between Fort Frances and International Falls
The International Bridge connecting Fort Frances, Ont., and International Falls, Mn., is vital to economy of northwestern Ontario, with Fort Frances town council slated to debate on Monday night if senior levels of government should buy out the bridge.
The bridge, which spans the Rainy River, is privately owned, jointly, by the owners of the paper mills on each side of the river. However, Resolute Forest Products, which shuttered its Fort Frances mill in 2014, said it is interested in selling its 50 per cent stake in the bridge.
"We'd like to see the governments in Canada, the provincial and federal government, work with their counterparts across the border to turn this into a public access," said Coun. Douglas Judson.
"We know this is possible, we know that the legislative frameworks are in place in Canada, and we know they've been put to use in Rainy River and Baudette," he said, referring to another border crossing, also over the Rainy River, about 100 km to the west.
Judson said about 15 years ago, there were also discussions about selling the bridge, but its ownership was retained by the mills. At that point, it was discussed that in the 2020s, there would be major work required to one span of the bridge.
"There's been a localized understanding that the reason we have tolls on it, the reason the tolls are so high, they go up so much year after year, is that the owners are saving for that work to be done."
Judson said there is concern that now that the work needs to be done, the owners of the bridge seem to be attempting to pull up stakes, without having completed the required work.
The toll to cross the bridge is $7 US per vehicle and is only payable when going into Canada.
Discounted passes are available, however Judson said the cost of those passes has doubled, payable in US funds, in the past 13 years.
Judson said the bridge plays a vital role in the economy of Fort Frances, as well as much of northwestern Ontario.
The bridge was originally built in 1908 and is one of two privately owned toll bridges along the Canada-U.S. border. The other is the Ambassador Bridge linking Windsor, Ont. and Detroit, Mi.
About 800,000 crossings are made on the International Bridge annually.