Thunder Bay

Canada-U.S. border crossing bridge in Rainy River, Ontario to be replaced

A highway bridge that connects northwestern Ontario with northern Minnesota is slated to be replaced in the next few years, raising hopes that it will be easier to transport large cargo across the Canada-U.S. border.

Cross-border project will replace, update bridge between Rainy River, Ont. and Baudette, Minn.

The bridge connecting Rainy River, Ont. and Baudette, Minn. is slated to be replaced in 2018. (Jeff Walters / CBC)

A highway bridge connecting northwestern Ontario with northern Minnesota is slated to be replaced in the next few years, raising hopes that it will be easier to transport large cargo across the Canada-U.S. border.

The bilateral project between Ontario's Ministry of Transportation and Minnesota's Department of Transportation is expected to replace the bridge between Rainy River, Ont., and Baudette, Minn., — a bridge that represents more than just an access point between the two communities.

"There's relationships, there's marriages, there's families living on both sides [of the border]," said Rainy River Coun. Gordon Prost.

"There's people who work on one side, live on the other side. There's even some education, schooling and stuff going on."

Prost, who has also worked as a customs officer at the bridge, added that the old structure — built in 1959 — had some unique characteristics.
Rainy River Coun. Gordon Prost says a piece of history will be lost when the new bridge is built. (Jeff Walters / CBC)

"When you reach the halfway point, suddenly it was brighter, cleaner paint, and it was in nicer condition," he said. "So, you knew when you were going from one country to the other."

Prost added that "the Ontario side was the nicer side."

The bridge is being replaced to conform with new maintenance standards in Minnesota and calls for the new structure to be built south of the existing bridge.

The new bridge is expected to do away with the overhead structure present on the current one, meaning that larger and heavier loads will potentially be able to cross the expanse. Currently, it can be difficult to get large items into the area as there also restrictions on the bridges in Sioux Narrows and Fort Frances, Ontario.
A rendering of the proposed new bridge shows no overhead structure. (http://www.dot.state.mn.us/)

When the bridge originally opened back in 1960, Prost said there were big celebrations, but he's not sure that will happen again.

"It was a pretty big affair," he said. "There were marching bands ... military fly overs, it was a whole big complete celebration all day long."

"I don't think this is going to be quite the same thing," he added. "Maybe a few fireworks."

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