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Spanning the French River

Contractors prepare for deck pour of new Highway 69 bridges

A southern Ontario contractor is preparing to pour concrete on the two new bridge decks spanning the French River, 60 kilometres south of Sudbury.

Looby Construction of Stratford released photos on social media last week of its workers on the northbound and southbound bridge decks, which is part of the ongoing expansion of Highway 69 to four lanes between Sudbury and Parry Sound.

The new spans are going up just east of the current two-lane French River bridge, built in 1957. 

The 600-foot (183 metres) long spans are part of the 14-kilometre stretch of new highway alignment, just south of Alban.

J & P Leveque Bros. Haulage of Bancroft is the general contractor of the $200-million section of highway, slated to be finished in 2022.

Looby is a subcontractor under Leveque Bros. It's a six-year build for the civil construction firm to install 10 new bridges and 29 culverts, said the company's website.

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According to Looby, the completed roadway will hang 75 feet (29 metres) above the water and will feature an open railing for motorists to view the river.

A few kilometres to the south, two bridge decks are being erected just to the west of the existing Pickerel River bridge.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation declined to make anyone available for an interview but replied by email that the current French River and Pickerel River bridges will both be retained and used as part of a service road between the interchanges at Pickerel River Road and Highway 607.

Since four-laning began in 2004 on the 152-kilometre-long project, which started at both the north (Sudbury) and south (Parry Sound) ends, 70 kilometres are now in use.

With the 14-kilometre section under construction, there remains 68 kilometres of corridor to complete. Timelines were not made available. 

"We are working collaboratively with property owners, municipalities, and First Nations communities and will continue to do as we move forward with this project," the ministry responded.

Near Kenora, route planning, preliminary design and environmental approvals for the first section of widening Highway 17 near the Manitoba border continues.

WSP Canada Group was hired by the ministry to undertake this project on the first section of 6.5 kilometres.

The entire 39-kilometre stretch between Kenora and the border with Manitoba is regarded as a strategy link for interprovincial traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway system as there is no alternate highway route in that area.

The ministry said construction will start once the environmental approval process is done and all concerns are addressed.

Last February, Provincial Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney joined Energy, Mines, Northern Development and Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford in signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) agreement with four area First Nations for the highway project to proceed to construction.

This stretch of the Trans-Canada handles between 5,000 to 7,500 vehicles a day.