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Bridge project in next phase

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With the planning and the preliminary design complete, the new Rainy River-Baudette international bridge replacement is now into the detail design phase of the project.

A meeting was held last Wednesday at the Rainy River Recreation Centre for residents to review the recommended plan, learn about what to expect during construction, and ask any further questions.

Project heads from both the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and the Minnesota Department of Transportation were on hand to provide information.

“This is our first public information meeting for the detail design phase introducing our recommended bridge type and alignment options to the public,” Kevin Saunders, senior project manager for the Northwestern region of the MTO, told the Times.

He explained the preliminary design was finished back in February, then it quickly moved into the detail design.

“We're now nearing the end of detail design so by Nov. 1, the design package is complete and we'll move into the phase where we are working with MnDOT to put the contract together,” Saunders said.

“This is just presenting the end result that we are going to be building,” he added.

Previously, community meetings were held to introduce the different bridge types and building possibilities, as well as to get feedback from the community.

The last meeting took place on Feb. 21 to view the results of the environmental assessment.

“This is now the recommended plan and if we get any opposition, we'll defend it and move forward,” Saunders said, though noting he didn't expect any opposition.

“I think the people from both communities are quite happy with what we're doing,” he remarked.

“It's all been positive feedback.”

Saunders guessed that although residents like the look of the old bridge, they are ready for something new.

“I think both communities look forward to the possible opportunities for an economic benefit,” he said.

The new bridge will remove some of the restrictions of the current one caused by its size and the “structurally deficient” classification.

“We're building a bridge that more commercial traffic could potentially go through,” Saunders explained.

Construction is planned to begin in May due to the timing of some of the MnDOT funding.

“There will be minimum impact to the residents during the construction phase,” Saunders pledged.

“We're building offline—upstream from the existing bridge—which will remain in place until the end of year two when we do tie-ins,” he noted.

He added realigning the bridge entries will cause the biggest disturbances, but they're hoping to keep those traffic disruptions to a minimum.

Saunders, based out of Thunder Bay, said the international aspect of the project made it very remarkable to work on.

According to him, Ontario has 14 international river crossings but only three are owned by the province, with two of those in this region.

“This is a very unique project to be working on. 'Gordie Howe' is similar except on a much grander scale,” Saunders said, referring to the planned bridge to connect Windsor and Detroit.

“There is not a lot of opportunity to work on an international project like this from the MTO side,” he conceded.

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