The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) released a statement advising that the Rainy River Tributary Bridge on Highway 602, commonly known as the ‘Bailey Bridge’, approximately 1.6 kilometers west of Oakwood Road, will be closed for the foreseeable future.
The bridge is scheduled for construction in 2023. It has not been confirmed whether it will be repaired or replaced.
On August 12, the Township of Alberton received a request from resident Les Kaun. In a letter to council, he asked that the Township provide dates for the removal or replacement of the Bailey Bridge on Highway 602 near Bone Road. The structure had collapsed 34 inches, creating a hazard for motorists. The guide rails had sunken down and would no longer protect a vehicle from going into the adjacent ravine.
In response, flaggers were posted at the site to limit traffic to one vehicle at a time, and the Times was notified that MTO was working on a plan to fix the bridge. Since then, many noted that the precautions were not always followed, and the bridge was still a safety concern.
On September 4, a video on Facebook revealed that the bailey bridge had accrued large cracks in less than a week. School buses were still routed to travel across the bridge and many parents resorted to driving their kids to school instead.
“We just spent 2 years going to what felt like the ends of the earth in the name of apparent safety, yet here we are now. We’re going to continue using a bridge that most residents of the 602 question it’s safety daily using a regular vehicle, to transport our CHILDREN over a ticking time bomb. We are DESPERATELY calling on anyone who can, to make a difference for us,” the post read, receiving almost 100 shares in a few days.
On September 8, MTO officially closed down the bridge. In a public statement they said, “The Ministry of Transportation has been inspecting the bridge daily and made the decision to close the bridge that is currently under load restrictions. We will be implementing signage over the next hour, with flaggers remaining on site to direct traffic.”
Rainy River District Transportation Services confirmed with the Times that school buses were taking alternate routes.
A signed detour was put in place along Highway 611 south, along with signs to alert travelers of the closure.
Motorists can detour using Oakwood Road, Highway 11-71, Ducharme Road and Bone Road.
“The ministry encourages the public to use 511, www.Ontario.ca/511, for accurate and current information on bridge status updates as well as accurate road conditions, weather information and alerts, highway closures, plow locations (track my plow), camera shots, and other related information. Ontario511 is also available on Google Play and the App Store, or by dialing 5-1-1 from any phone,” MTO said in the public release.
Elisa Nguyen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times