By Jeff Labine
Published: July 27, 2016
Nipigon Mayor Richard Harvey would like to know the reason behind the province’s decision to hold onto a report on the failure of the new Nipigon River Bridge.
The country was essential divided in two along the Trans Canada Highway last January when Ontario’s first and so far only cable-stayed bridge lifted a steel decking up by 60 centimetres, which caused a daylong closure for repairs.
Following that incident, construction of the bridge continued on while engineers looked into the cause of the break. The bolts have since got to two independent labs for testing. One report has come back but the Liberal government has chosen not to release it.
Work that still needs to be completed includes demolishing the old bridge and erecting the next tower, which will be for the four-way highway. That is expected to be completed by the end of the construction season in 2017.
Harvey said from what he understands the bridge is coming along on schedule but he voiced some concerns that they don’t know what caused the bolts to break.
“At the same time, we have been assured that they have finished the study and will be releasing that,” he said. “I would love to know why it hasn’t been released (and) if there is a good reason, I would be satisfied with that. Just so we understand why it is they are taking their time in releasing the findings. I am fully confident they wouldn’t be moving ahead with the second half of the bridge if they weren’t absolutely assured of the safety.”
Last week, the Liberal government came under fire from opposition parties over the decision to withhold a report showing the test results on the bolts that broke back in January.
PC transportation critic Michael Harris demanded the reports be made public.
“Given that the ministry has had seven months to do its own analysis and report — that information should be made public immediately,” Harris said in the release.
“Look, for seven months now we’ve waited while unanswered questions have grown as to how a $106-million project that directly impacted this vital trade conduit to the west could have failed only weeks after opening. We’ve waited long enough. Taxpayers are owed an explanation, and government now has some answers, it’s time to let us in on the secret.”
Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca, in his own news releases, defended the decision and argued that the reports they have received is only one part of the investigation.
Michael Gravelle, the minister of Northern Development and Mines, came to his colleague’s defence and echoed his statement that all the details need to be known.
Gravelle said the bolt reports did not tell the whole story.
“I’ve been adamant from the very beginning that we don’t want to provide information on a piecemeal basis,” he said Tuesday. “There is engineering work being done right now by someone who is an expert on cable-stayed bridges. Politics is politics. You are going to have your opposition critics doing that and saying we should be revealing just part of the information, which I do not believe will be helpful in getting to the bottom of what caused the failure of the bridge.”
Gravelle also pointed out that Del Duca has provided numerous updates on the bridge.
He said that there has been absolute assurance that the bridge itself is safe following the temporary repairs. He argued the MTO wouldn’t be moving forward if they didn’t feel it was safe.
“I have every confidence in the (MTO),” he added. “They have the very best engineers, the best technical people and their No. 1 priority is safety.”
Gravelle promised that once they have a complete picture on what happened in January, he will be the first to say it should be made public.