Truck News


Carriers relieved to have Hwy. 11 crossing re-opened

LATCHFORD, Ont. - There's a bridge over troubled water again and a return to business as usual - more or less - for drivers, carriers and shippers depending on the Highway 11 northern route.Local carr...

LATCHFORD, Ont. – There’s a bridge over troubled water again and a return to business as usual – more or less – for drivers, carriers and shippers depending on the Highway 11 northern route.

Local carriers contacted by Truck News say the need for almost two weeks to send their trucks on a circuitous detour because of the collapse of a key Highway 11 bridge over the Montreal River was for the most part just a time-consuming inconvenience.

Nevertheless, they’re relieved to see the highway open again with a Bailey bridge in place.

“Oh thank God,” says Lonnie Bumstead, the operations manager at Bumstead Trucking Ltd. in New Liskeard. “It added about two hours per trip to go around.”

Bumstead Trucking is a carrier for companies such as Norbord Industries Inc. and Unibord Canada. Fortunately, he says, customers were accommodating.

“Most of the companies we haul for compensated us,” he says. “Most of them were understanding once we talked to them.”

Dan Forget, operations manager at Grant’s Transport Ltd., a New Liskeard-based bulk lubricants, wood products and petroleum products carrier, also said the bridge closure added an extra hour each way for loads going to or coming from southern Ontario.

He didn’t view the bridge closure as a major inconvenience, however. The effect on operations for his company’s fleet of 41 tankers was “only time,” he said.

Bumstead says although the two-week detour “wasn’t the end of the world,” he’s glad to see the Latchford crossing open again to truck traffic.

Truckers and other motorists using Highway 11 were forced to detour through part of Quebec for almost two weeks following the collapse of the Sergeant Aubrey Cosens VC Memorial Bridge across the Montreal River, about 20 kilometres south of New Liskeard and 100 kilometres north of North Bay.

The bridge, named after a World War Two Victoria Cross winner, partially collapsed Jan. 14 when three supports between the deck and the arch gave way as a transport was crossing the bridge. Initial reports suggested extreme -30 C temperatures as the cause.

On average, about 6,500 vehicles including 900 trucks a day use Highway 11 through northern Ontario.

The detour forced motor carriers and owner/operators to run their loads northeast out of North Bay on Highway 63, then up Quebec Highway 101 to Notre-Dame du Nord, and back across the Ontario border into New Liskeard on Highway 65.

Bob Vanveen, MTO operations manager in North Bay, told the local Temiskaming Speaker that there was “a brief concern” about Ontario truckers not being licensed in Quebec, but there were no reports of problems.

Bumstead says Quebec authorities didn’t give his drivers any problems. “They gave us reciprocity as long as we stayed on the detour route,” he says.

One trucker from Earlton, Ont., who had been forced to take a lumber load through the Quebec detour, told The North Bay Nugget that he was glad to be using Highway 11 again because “driving Highway 101 through Quebec and Highway 63 was terrible.”

The MTO acted quickly to first get detours in place, and then begin construction of a temporary one-lane bridge just east of the collapsed span. Crews worked around the clock and the 50-metre, single-lane bridge and 60-metre causeway opened at noon on Jan. 27, ahead of schedule.

In the spring, because of spring runoff and increased water flow on the Montreal River, the one-lane bridge and causeway will be replaced with a longer, two-lane Bailey bridge.

George Lefebvre, mayor of the town of Latchford, believes there shouldn’t be any problems with traffic tie ups now that the crossing is open again with a one-lane, traffic light-controlled bridge.

“This is not a precedent,” he says. There has been one-lane traffic on the bridge on two occasions during the 1990s due to painting and redecking. Both times were during peak travel season between May and October, and there was no lengthy waiting time at all. “I can say with confidence that Highway 11 will be back to normal,” he adds.

The bridge closure was a lot harder on local businesses that serve truckers, than truckers themselves. A number of companies were forced to cut hours and lay off employees as business declined by as much as 90 per cent.

The Cobalt Truck Stop, which operates 24 hours, turned out its lights and locked its doors for the first time in 22 years.

The truck stop is north of the Cosens bridge and south of the detour that was in place, and it was reduced to serving only local customers living in the vicinity when Highway 11 was closed to traffic. Owner Bob Fidelak was forced to temporarily lay off five employees, whom he rehired once the river crossing opened again. He says he’s glad to see traffic moving again, but it will take a while for business to build back up.

“We’ll need every bit of it…we and the businesses in Temagami were probably the most affected, and it’s going to take a long time to recover.”

The one remaining headache for trucking companies using the temporary bridge at Latchford is that they may have to apply for a special weight permit to use the crossing, depending on the load being carried.

MTO spokesperson Bob Nichols, says a permit will be required for weights in excess of the legal load limit on the temporary bridge. The bridge is designed to accommodate a maximum vehicle width of 4.25 metres.

Nichols says a pull-off has been constructed before the bridge where vehicles that are 3.8 metres or wider will have to stop for a load inspection before crossing the Bailey bridge.

The temporary crossing will be used for the duration while the Aubrey Cosens bridge is repaired. It’s estimated those repairs could take up to a year.

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