SAULT STE. MARIE— Plans to develop Sault Ste. Marie as a regional transportation hub have slowed down, but continue to move forward and remain a top priority with huge economic potential, including increased commercial traffic.
In 2009, Northern Ontario’s International Bridge experienced the worst monthly drop in commercial traffic in the crossing’s nearly 50 years of operation. At the time, Phil Becker of the Joint International Bridge Authority said he didn’t see a turn around.
Earlier this week, Becker said that although truck traffic has tapered off recently, the potential for increased capacity and the multimodal strategy of Sault Ontario has the Bridge Authority planning for the future.
Among the top priorities is the creation of about 880 feet of two new southbound lanes, specifically designed for truck use, leading to U.S. Customs. One lane would be for trucks to queue up and the other for a Nexus lane, that Becker predicted would skyrocket, according to Sault This Week.
The project has an estimated value of $9 million and would need support from the federal government, he said.
The Bridge Authority is working with MDOT and local officials on both sides of the river to get the message out that the project is vital to the economic development of the region, and to look at funding opportunities. “I am really hopeful we are in a better position than ever to get the financing we need,” Becker said.
The larger project is to improve and expand the existing harbor. The development of the port would include dock repairs and shore development, as well as dredging to ensure a uniform water depth for large freighter access.
A final cost estimate for a combined public and private venture, including local industries such as Essar Steel Algoma, is not yet known, but Chief Administrative Officer Joe Fratesi said it could be well over $100 million. Even so, an improved deep-water harbor, “would not only develop opportunities for expansion for Essar and local industries, it could play a key transportation role for communities in Northeastern Ontario,” he said.
“That was always, by design, in the multimodal proposal, that Sault Ste. Marie become the hub [in the region] for the connection of different forms of transportation for goods and materials.”
For the full story, visit Sault This Week here.
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