SAULT STE MARIE BRIDGE AUTHORITY
At Thursday's Sault Ste. Marie Bridge Authority (SSMBA) board meeting, the bi-national body that supervises operations of the International Bridge elected officers for 2019.
Natalie Kinloch of Apple Hill, Ont, was elected as the 2019 chair of the SSMBA board of directors. A member of the SSMBA board since 2015, Kinloch is the chief operating officer of The Federal Bridge Corporation Limited (FBCL), the federal parent Crown corporation managing and overseeing four international bridge locations (Sault Ste. Marie, Point Edward, Lansdowne, and Cornwall).
At FBCL, Kinloch is responsible for operations, finance, corporate planning, and serving as government liaison. She is also a board member of the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority and the Seaway International Bridge Corporation Limited.
Linda Hoath of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., was elected vice chair for 2019. Hoath, the executive director of the Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., Convention and Visitor's Bureau (CVB), has served as SSMBA board member since May 2011.
The SSMBA board consists of eight members: four Michigan members appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder and four Canadian members appointed by the FBCL, located in Ottawa. The other Canadian representatives on the board are current vice-chair Micheline Dubé, Anthony Pickett, and André Girard. The other U.S. representatives are current chair Thomas Buckingham Sr., Scott Shackleton, and Nicholas White.
The SSMBA board reviewed and officially accepted the results of the annual bridge inspection and fracture critical inspection. A team of bridge engineering experts from the lead firm of Hardesty and Hanover (H&H) of Okemos, Mich., along with their Canadian partner firm WSP Canada Group Limited of Oakville, Ont., conducted the two-week-long annual inspections of the bridge in August and presented their findings at Thursday's meeting.
"Outstanding ongoing maintenance is the key to keeping the bridge in good condition," said H&H structural engineer Richard Wianecki. "The overall condition of the bridge is good and our inspection found no serious issues."
H&H noted some minor items that the International Bridge Administration (IBA) staff has included in scheduled maintenance for 2019.
The fracture critical inspection was conducted on the Canadian half of the bridge. Fracture critical inspections are conducted on one-half of the bridge each year and provide a closer look at bridge components that are critical to the structural integrity of the bridge.
"We repair any structural deficiencies, no matter how minor, found during the inspection," said Karl Hansen, the IBA bridge engineer. "The IBA has a long legacy of excellent bridge maintenance and a dedicated staff who protect the public investment in the bridge."
The board reviewed ongoing routine annual maintenance activities and received updates on several maintenance projects that were successfully performed this year, including painting of the ivory curb rail, coating of a portion of the bridge deck, and completion of a sliding plate bearing project. Using IBA staff to complete the bearing project in house resulted in a total savings of $966,930.
In other business, the board:
- Was updated on financial operations. Total bridge traffic year-to-date through September saw an increase of 5.4 per cent over 2017, with toll revenues increasing as well. IBA staff has actively worked to constrain expenditures this year, resulting in outflows at or under budget in each department. As a result, bridge fund balances are beginning to recover from the major capital expense of painting the Canadian arch in 2017.
- Approved the 2019-2023 business plan. The plan looks at strategic objectives, asset management, financial operations, and other business activities for the next five years. Included in the plan is the pending increase in passenger vehicle tolls from the current $3.50 (in U.S. dollars) per trip to $4 on April 1, 2019. The increase, approved in November 2013, was prompted by the SSMBA Board of Directors' review of the operational and capital improvement project needs of the bridge for the next 30 years. This is the second and final toll increase approved at that time.
IBA officials stress that much of the bridge's toll revenue is funneled back into the community, making the bridge not just a connector between the twin cities but also a major economic driver on both sides of the border. The operation and maintenance of the International Bridge is totally self-funded, primarily through bridge tolls. It is not subsidized by any state, provincial or federal government entity.