Trans-Canada bridge failure a 'wakeup call': NDP MP

The federal government needs to step in to help clear a "choke point" caused by a damaged bridge on the Trans-Canada Highway, one NDP MP says.

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Charlie Angus, MP for the riding of Timmins-James Bay, says the federal government needs to improve road conditions along the Trans-Canada Highway, and make it easier for trucks to take detours through the United States when parts of the highway are closed.

"These are serious choke points to the Canadian economy," Angus told CTV's Canada AM on Tuesday. "We need to have some federal presence stepping up to the plate here."

Angus' recommendations come as workers attempt to fix a damaged cable-stayed bridge over the Nipigon River, in northern Ontario. A segment of the bridge recently heaved more than 60 centimetres out of position, temporarily stopping all traffic along Canada's busy shipping route. Many transport trucks were forced to take a detour through the United States, which can add up to 12 hours to their trip because of customs checks.

One lane of the bridge has since been re-opened, but larger transport trucks are still being rerouted along a lengthy detour through the U.S.

"This is the economic truck corridor for the country," Angus said. "People think 'Well, it's way up north, it's not really an issue,' but it is an issue."

The recently-opened Nipigon River Bridge is the most expensive bridge ever built in Ontario. Approximately 1,300 trucks cross the bridge carrying an estimated $100 million worth of goods each day, according to a trucking industry spokesperson.

"It connects the east to the west, and there is only that one route," Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne told reporters on Monday.

Angus said the troubles at the bridge are indicative of the poor road conditions in northern Ontario. "On any given day in northern Ontario, the Trans-Canada is going to be closed at certain points," he said. "We really have third-rate roads, yet this is the main truck transfer route for all economic development in this country."

"I think it's a wakeup call to Canadians," he added.

The last bridge failure to impact the highway was in 2003, at Latchford.



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