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January 14, 2018

Failed Nipigon Bridge repairs to take three years and up to $12 million

Repairs to a bridge in northwestern Ontario will take nearly three years and delays have pushed the total cost well over the initial $8 million to $12 million estimate, according to documents obtained by The Canadian Press.

But the Ontario government is refusing to say just how much over, and whether taxpayers will have to foot the bill for fixes to the Nipigon Bridge.

“Since the malfunction in January 2016 our top priority has been to ensure the public is aware of the status of the project and the cause of the malfunction,” Celso Pereira, the transportation minister’s spokesman, said in a statement.

“With that said, negotiations with the contractor regarding these costs are currently underway. As such, the ministry is not able to release them as it could jeopardize the status of these negotiations.”

Engineering reports found that a combination of design and installation deficiencies of several key components caused the bridge to fail, severing a critical Trans-Canada Highway link. Improperly tightened bolts on one portion of the bridge snapped, causing the steel decking to lift about 60 centimetres.

That was just 42 days after the $106-million bridge had opened.

The bridge reopened to one lane of traffic the next day and two lanes in late February, but according to the ministry, it won’t be open to four lanes of traffic until late 2018.

When those engineering reports were released in September 2016, the government estimated the repair work at between $8 million and $12 million.

Documents obtained by The Canadian Press through a Freedom of Information request, with project updates from May, June and October, discuss construction challenges and delays that are leading to additional costs, but nearly all of those amounts are redacted.

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