Local knowledge important to Nipigon River crossing study, mayor says
Richard Harvey says any potential crossing will be made through challenging terrain
Officials with the Ministry of Transportation are holding the first open house to get feedback on a study for a potential second way to cross the Nipigon River, and one area mayor says that kind of engagement will be key.
The ministry, along with consultants from WSP Canada Group Limited, are working on planning, preliminary design and class environmental assessment to review whether there needs to be a second road crossing at the northwestern Ontario river.
It comes in the wake of the 2016 failure of the Highway 11-17 bridge over the Nipigon River. The incident severed the Trans-Canada Highway for 18 hours.
Ensuring the ability for vehicle traffic to cross the river is very important but creating a second access in the local environment will be difficult, said Nipigon Mayor Richard Harvey. That's where, he said, local knowledge of the area will be crucial.
An open house in Nipigon on March 1 will give the public the first opportunity to look at several "proposed planning alternatives," or different ways of addressing a second access across the river, Annemarie Piscopo, a spokesperson with the ministry told CBC News in an email.
Those options will "address local, provincial and national needs," she said.
Throughout the process, including subsequent public meetings, the options will be evaluated considering transportation, the environment and cost. That evaluation will take public feedback — including that of municipalities, Indigenous communities, businesses and other members of the public — into account, Piscopo said.
Waterways, wetlands, Canadian Shield all natural barriers
Any potential new crossing will have to consider the varied northwestern Ontario terrain near Lake Superior, Harvey said.
"They have to find that right area that it's possible to put a road but also that will have a minimal impact on the environment."
That complexity will mean local stakeholder input is crucial, Harvey said.
"As people come to a meeting, they're able to share what they know about specific places and each person [who] comes in will have a different area that they'll have some very intimate knowledge about," he said.
"All of that has to be gathered together."