A 'mechanical failure' of the Nipigon River Bridge forced the closure of the Trans-Canada Highway on Sunday, severing the only road between Eastern and Western Canada. (Provided/Ashley Littlefield via CBC)

Canada is back together again: Only east-west link complete


It may seem odd, but it’s a fact.

There is just one road, one single place connecting all of western Canada, to all of eastern Canada. That place is at Nipigon in northern Ontario.

It’s where two highways, 11 and 17, join, cross the bridge over the Nipigon River and separate again on the other side.  Both are designated as parts of the Trans-Canada highway system.

Red balloon indicates location of the Hwy 11/17 bridge over the Nipigon River. Highways 11 and 17 are both designated as Trans Canada highways as they provide different routes across northern Ontario, and Hwy 17 later becomes the only road route to western Canada. However, both routes join at the Nipigon bridge, and when that failed this weekend, all road traffic between east and west Canada was cut. ( Google mm)

Now the new bridges are complete and have just been opened to four lanes of traffic which will reduce congestion and improve safety.

For the longest time there was a single bridge and it’s time was up. A new twin bridge was to be built, and the first segment was completed and opened with some fanfare.

Trouble struck back in January 2016, just 42 days after the new bridge opened. That’s when a gust of winter wind under the brand new bridge apparently caused improperly fastened bolts to fail. This caused the bridge surface to heave up about half a metre at one end, and effectively cut the country in two as far as road traffic goes.

In the meantime, traffic heading toward either side of Canada, was held up while engineers tried to figure out the situation.. A single lane was opened a day later and two lanes only a month after the incident.

The original Nipigon River bridge opening, Sept 24, 1927.. The “highway” is a dirt road. (wiiipeadia)

Engineers spent some time getting things back in place and traffic began moving across Canada once again across the two lane bridge.. Construction on the second bridge began and just this past weekend, the second bridge was finally fully open to allow four lanes of traffic.

All four lanes are finally open as of this weekend on the new Nipigon River twin bridge- the sole road link connecting eastern and western Canada (Gord Ellis-CBC)

As was the original plan, the road lifeline between west and east is now flowing smoothly at last. The original cost was $106 million dollars, but there’s no word on the final cost.

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