THUNDER BAY – The International Bridge connecting Fort Frances to International Falls, Minn., needs to be replaced or repaired, Marcus Powlowski said Thursday.

Either way, “the status quo is not good enough,” the Liberal MP for Thunder Bay–Rainy River said.

“People should not have to pay to go back and forth over the bridge and for maintenance of that bridge,” he told Dougall Media.

“I mean, I don’t think there’s any need to charge people for it.”

Thunder Bay people don’t have to pay at the Pigeon River border crossing, and Rainy River folks pay no toll to cross over to Baudette, Minn., he noted.

“So it’s really unfair for people in Fort Frances area that they have to pay to go across the bridge, whereas people in Thunder Bay or Rainy River don’t have to pay to cross a bridge,” he said.

“We all pay the same tax money. It’s not like (Fort Frances residents) get a tax break in lieu of the fact that they have to pay for this bridge.” 

The International Bridge’s owners announced in October that the toll structure had been “simplified” and the price of a 12-crossing Commuter Card was tripling to $90.

The more-than-100-year-old bridge was built by the operator of a paper mill and purchased in May 2022 by a partnership between Rainy River First Nations and the BMI Group.

Powlowski had a meeting in Ottawa in early June with the U.S. ambassador to Canada in which the bridge was the main topic.

In a followup letter to the ambassador dated June 27, Powlowski stated that the bridge “is of utmost importance” to Fort Frances and its American neighbour.

The situation requires “a coordinated effort of all levels of Canadian and American government,” the MP said, adding that he and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar agree there should be “a publicly owned international bridge.”

A new publicly owned bridge with no tolls is the best possibility, he told Newswatch in a phone interview.

“I think toll bridges went out of fashion in the 18th century for a good reason,” Powlowski said.

“I’ve visited or lived in a lot of countries around the world and … I would say that’s the most bizarre border crossing in the world.

“In the long term it might be cheaper just to replace it with something that you don’t have to keep fixing every couple of years.”

By Mike Stimpson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 04, 2024 at 16:55

This item reprinted with permission from   Thunder Bay Source   Thunder Bay, Ontario
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