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Five-Mile bridge can't open soon enough

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Boats unable to make the two-metre clearance below the Rainy River Rail Lift Bridge hopefully won't be forced to remain docked for much longer.

The Rainy River Rail Lift Bridge, more commonly known as the Five-Mile lift bridge, has been out of operation since last fall.

Canadian National Railway announced on June 20 that boaters can expect the lift bridge to be fully operational again by approximately July 23.

CN had engineers working on repairs and maintenance when it was discovered the bearings on the bridge were no longer up to code.

Al Boivin, owner of Rainy Lake Boat Taxi, mentioned he had noticed the bridge was not operating last fall and was still not functioning once the ice had melted off the lake during the spring.

Boivin noted his business has been impacted by the closure since his barge is too large to travel to the south arm of the lake and relies on the causeway to be open to operate his business.

“I've lost three or four trips for sure. It has affected my income that's for sure,” enthused Boivin.

Boivin said he's been keeping a close eye on the construction happening to the bridge.

“I live right close to there, so I'm seeing what's happening there every day pretty much and they were working on the bridge for most of the winter for February and March, part of April and then they just left,” he explained.

When constructions workers returned to the Five-Mile bridge in the spring, Boivin decided to ask what the issue was and when it would be fixed.

“They said that during their maintenance and upgrades to the bridge, they discovered that some very important bearings down in the bottom had failed and were not passing the test,” stated Boivin.

“They said the bridge would not be open until July 5.”

When July 5 had come and gone, Boivin mentioned he contacted the Navigable Waters division at Transport Canada to try and get more information as to when the lift would be operating again.

There was a lot of confusion on mixed reports of when the bridge would reopen, added Boivin.

He explained he had been told multiple dates of when the repairs would be finished.

Boivin stated repairs could stretch into August before the bridge is operational and there are people already in desperate need for a propane delivery.

“There is already two or three people that are out of propane and many more that are just running on fumes and if that bridge doesn't open when scheduled at the end of July, it will affect them and their life,” said Boivin.

Many businesses remain stagnant as the summer is drawing closer to the mid-point and the money lost continues to grow.

One business feeling the time crunch of the Five-Mile lift repairs is Camp Narrows Lodge.

When speaking with Camp Narrows owner Tom Pearson last week, he said he had been losing about $4,000-$5,000 a week since he's been unable to rent out his houseboat which is docked on the south end.

Pearson said the amount of money he's lost from his houseboats would not compare to how bad it will be if the Five-Mile bridge is not open by July 23.

“It's nothing compared to what I'll lose if it's not open in two or three weeks,” said Pearson.

He explained his thousand-gallon propane tanks are near empty and would be running out soon if he is unable to get his delivery from Rainy Lake Barge.

“If it's not open by July 23, then [it's] really going to start costing an awful lot of money if I have to start cancelling guests in August and September,” said Pearson.

Camp Narrows expects about 30 to 40 guests a week during these months and would have to shut down once the camp runs out of propane, explained Pearson.

With businesses and campers still uneasy and uncertain about the timeline on when the Five-Mile bridge will reopen, many questions still remain.

“What do you do? I mean there is no backup plan, there's nothing I can do," said Pearson. "We would have to close.”

Without any alternative plans, and the waterway at a standstill, local businesses are losing thousands of dollars waiting for construction to finish on the bridge.

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