Thunder Bay

Bridge at busiest border crossing in northwestern Ontario up for sale — at least the Canadian side is

The bridge at the busiest border crossing in northwestern Ontario is for sale, at least on the Canadian side.

Resolute Forest Products owns half of bridge linking Fort Frances and Minnesota

Looking north on the International Bridge toward Fort Frances, Ont. The bridge is co-owned by Boise Inc. and Resolute Forest Products, which is signalling it's willing to sell its 50 per cent stake. (Ken Lund/Flickr)

The bridge at the busiest border crossing in northwestern Ontario is for sale, at least on the Canadian side.

Resolute Forest Products, a Canadian pulp-and-paper manufacturer, owns 50 per cent and U.S.-based Boise Inc. owns the other half of the International Bridge, which links Fort Frances, Ont., and International Falls, Minn.

The crossing was constructed in 1908 and has always been owned by mills on each side of the Rainy River.

Resolute Forest Products, which shut down its Fort Frances mill in 2014, said the bridge is now outside of the company's core business assets, and it would consider selling it.

It's not the first time the bridge has been for sale, said Heather Johnston, executive director of the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce.

"The pending sale has occurred in our past, but it's always been another mill taking over, so I guess the concern this time is we really don't have an idea who would be taking over our portion of the bridge."

The bridge serves as a vital link between the Fort and the Falls, Johnson said, noting people cross the border to go to the movies and bowling, or visit family.

Bridge 'a huge crossing' for trade, tourism

The chamber wants to ensure "our bridge remains well maintained, and remains open to commercial traffic and tourism. We miss our American friends and certainly don't want anything to be hindering them from crossing the border."

"It's a huge crossing both for trade, for commercial goods, as well as a very robust tourist economy in our region."

The bridge has two lanes of traffic, as well as a railway track and pipeline that run between the two mills, which used to ship product back and forth across the bridge.

While the pandemic has halted tourism and daily traffic, Johnson said there's hope the bridge tolls will remain the same, as it is regularly used. 

"Because we are a border community, we have many of our town residents and International Falls residents that are married to Canadians or Americans, so we have families on both sides."

In the past, Johnson said, town councils on both sides of the border encouraged state or provincial governments to buy their respective sides of the bridge, but that never happened.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeff Walters

Reporter/Editor

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.

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