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River Street on track for May reopening

Depending on weather conditions, the city says River Street is set to reopen to traffic by May, a year after a culvert collapsed over McVicar Creek.

THUNDER BAY — River Street is set to reopen in May, around a year after a collapsed culvert forced the closure of one of the city’s major arterial roads, according to city officials.

City staff emphasize that estimate will depend on weather conditions, but say based on current progress, they expect the road to reopen in mid to late May.

The estimate is in line with the city’s previous statement that the road would reopen by late spring, though city engineers had initially expressed some hope last year that with favourable conditions, the project could be completed in 2022.

Project engineer Mike Vogrig said crews have completed “about 99 per cent” of work to excavate the existing twin culverts, one of which collapsed and was damaged on May 5, 2022.

The culverts are set to be replaced with a single structural multi-plate metal arch, mounted on concrete footings.

Because excavation has approached underground utilities, Vogrig said workers now need to put a “trench box” in place, stabilizing the edge of the excavation zone so preparatory work can be completed.

The city is hoping to complete that prep work in the next week or two before pouring the bridge’s first footing.

That timing is key, Vogrig said, as in-water work restrictions typically begin on April 1 to avoid disruptions to the fish spawning season, though a short extension may be possible depending on temperatures.

Workers will then proceed to install a diversion coffer dam before pouring a second footing, starting to assemble the culvert, and backfilling the area.

When in-water work restrictions end in late June, workers will then remove the coffer dam.

While the long closure has frustrated motorists, Vogrig said the fact that work has continued through the colder months reflects the city’s determination to get it done.

“Typically we don’t do contracts through the winter, just because of the difficulties associated with them, but the priority here was to move forward with getting River Street open as quickly as possible.”

Warmer-than-average winter weather has allowed faster progress on some days, but has also caused setbacks, Vogrig reported.

“When we’ve had those thaws, and they’ve had the site prepped and then all of a sudden [it’s] covered in ice the next day, it takes a lot of time to clean that up and get back to work again. So it’s been a bit of a mixed bag, but Taranis [Contracting] is out here working hard and doing everything they can to try to meet schedule.”

The Thunder Bay-based company secured the contract to rebuild the road and a new arched culvert, with total costs estimated around $2.5 million.


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