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Province replacing Manitoulin Island swing bridge

Ongoing project will proceed to property acquisition and detailed design
A rendering shows what the new bridge (left) will look like once it replaces the existing structure (right), which will eventually be removed.

The province has confirmed it’s going ahead with plans to replace the swing bridge at Little Current, which runs along Highway 6, connecting Manitoulin Island with the mainland of Ontario.

After years of study, the province announced in 2021 it had chosen a design for a new bridge to replace the existing structure, which is close to 110 years old and nearing the end of its life.

The province said it has now completed the planning, preliminary design, and environmental assessment for a new bridge, and will move to the next stages of the project, which include property acquisition, right-of-way designation, and detail design.

“Replacement of the Little Current swing bridge will make travel smoother for residents, businesses, emergency services and tourists, while supporting economic growth and job creation in local communities,” Northern Development Minister Greg Rickford said in a Sept. 8 news release.

Completed in 1913 as a rail crossing before being converted for vehicular traffic, the single-lane bridge crosses the North Channel in the upper part of Georgian Bay in Lake Huron. It provides the only year-round vehicular access between Manitoulin and the rest of Ontario.

While the bridge remains closed to marine traffic through the winter months, during the summer, it swings open once per hour, every hour, to let boats pass through the channel.

It’s become an iconic symbol for Manitoulin Island, which is a popular summer destination for cottage owners and tourists.

“The Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands is very pleased that the Ontario government is focused on moving this project forward,” said Alan MacNevin, mayor of the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands, where the bridge is located.

“While the current bridge represents our connection to our past, the new bridge will represent our connection to the future by enhancing traffic flow and supporting growth and development on the Island.”

Like the current bridge, the new span will be a through truss swing bridge, which will feature two lanes and a sidewalk and run slightly to the west of the current bridge.

The province did not provide a project timeline.