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Timeline for Duchesnay Bridge project could span next summer

The MTO confirms to BayToday the replacement of the bridge spanning Duchesnay Creek will extend past the posted September 2020 date visible on MTO signage visible near the project

It could be another full year of taking the "long way around," to get to and from the entrance to Nipissing First Nation, as well as for motorists to access North Bay's Main Street West from Highway 17.

The Ministry of Transportation of Ontario confirms to BayToday the replacement of the bridge spanning Duchesnay Creek will extend past the posted September 2020 date for the first stage visible on MTO signage visible near the project. 

"The anticipated completion of the [entire] Duchesnay Creek Bridge construction project is the fall of 2021," advises Heather Hamel, Communications Coordinator for the MTO's Northeast Operations, who adds the signage will be updated for the next phase of construction. 

The closure is located on Highway 17B, between downtown North Bay and Couchie Memorial Drive. Nipissing First Nation officials note the shuttle service around the detour currently offered will continue until the bridge is open. 

The project involves more than just the replacement of the old bridge and construction of a modern timber structure. It is a partnership between Miller Paving and Nipissing First Nation working together on the bridge project.  

See related story: New partnership built through historical bridge project 

The province has contributed $12 million to replace the bridge. The project was expected to take at least two years from the outset.

The building plan included a new entrance from the road for Duchesnay Village and the removal of the nearby CN Rail overpass. The project also includes paving and shaving to mitigate poor sightlines along 17B. 

Asked if the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the schedule, Hamel observes, "The work on this project is moving forward as planned.  Our contractors are taking the appropriate measures to protect their staff and ensure their well-being."

When complete, the new bridge will span Duchesnay Creek and re-establish the link from downtown North Bay to Highway 17, west of the city.

The previous bridge, which was more than 80 years old, had been frequently inspected by structural engineers in late-2018 and early-2019 to determine the load it could continue to bear in advance of its eventual replacement. It was permanently closed by the MTO after inspections in late-January 2019 revealed structural flaws.

The Duchesnay Creek Bridge was the last remaining timber deck truss bridge on Ontario’s provincial highway network until its dismantling in fall 2019.

"A unique feature of this bridge is the use of glue-laminated timbers in the construction," says Hamel. "The use of timber bridge components is one of the elements that is being incorporated to commemorate the history of this designated heritage structure."

With files from Chris Dawson/BayToday