Two border towns vying for ‘other’ private bridge

FORT FRANCES, Ont. — It’s been 27 years since an international bridge between Canada and the U.S. has been sold to private interests and it’s about to happen again.

According to the Globe & Mail and other media the 300-metre toll bridge connecting Fort Frances, Ont., and International Falls, Minn., will go to the highest bidder.

As was reported last November (click the “Related Stories” link at the bottom of this page), the pulp and paper mill manufacturers that own the International Bridge and Canada Customs facility — Abitibi-Consolidated and Boise Cascade — have been shopping the bridge to raise cash for their struggling businesses.

The only other private bridge between Canada and the U.S. is the Ambassador Bridge which links the busiest land border crossing at Detroit and Windsor, Ont. It’s been owned by trucking mogul and powerbroker Matty Moroun since 1979.

According to the Globe, he’s been rumoured as a potential suitor for the Fort Frances bridge as well.

Local politicians, including the mayors of both cities, have expressed that the bridge would be best in public hands. Fort Frances Mayor Dan Onichuk said last year it’s not in the best interest for either community to let the bridge go to another private investor — especially an out-of-town interest.

Each town could scrap the toll on the bridge, if they co-owned it, Onichuk said. The rate is about $8 per car and at least $20 a truck.

The two bridge owners have also stated in the past that they want free passage of their trains and commercial traffic included in the sale of the bridge. There are also about half-a-dozen pipelines that cross the bridge between the two mills.

The International Bridge — which is actually two spans side-by-side – averages more than 800,000 vehicle crossings a year.

According to the Globe, officials from both towns have asked Abitibi and Boise Cascade for a price on the bridge, but haven’t heard a firm response. The sale is soon expected to go through a broker to the highest bidder, reports the newspaper.

— with files from the Globe& Mail

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