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Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge board hears inspection report

  • The International Bridge recently underwent a biennial fracture critical inspection of the entire span.
  • Ongoing maintenance is keeping the bridge in good to fair condition.
  • The Sault Ste. Marie Bridge Authority (SSMBA) board of directors welcomed a new board member and named Natalie Kinloch as its chair and Thomas Buckingham Sr. vice chair for 2023.

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. and Ontario - The Sault Ste. Marie Bridge Authority (SSMBA) board of directors, the bi-national body that supervises operations of the International Bridge, heard reports on a recent bridge inspection at the board's regular meeting Thursday, Nov. 10.

The SSMBA board reviewed and officially accepted the results of the fracture critical inspection. These inspections provide a closer look at bridge components that are critical to the structural integrity of the bridge. A team of bridge engineering experts from the lead firm of Hardesty & Hanover (H&H) of Okemos, Mich., along with their Canadian partner firm, WSP Canada, Inc. of Mississauga, Ontario, conducted the inspection of the bridge this summer and presented their findings at Thursday's meeting. 

"The bridge's ongoing maintenance is outstanding, keeping the structure in good to fair condition," said H&H engineer Mark Helinski. "Our inspection found no significant changes from previous years."

H&H noted some minor items, such as cleaning and coating of steel components, and concrete pier repairs to be addressed. The International Bridge Administration (IBA) staff has included this work in future scheduled maintenance.

The International Bridge is inspected every year, with the routine inspection alternating with a fracture critical inspection. The routine inspection looks at the entire bridge every other year.

"The International Bridge has an excellent history of maintenance," said Karl Hansen, the IBA bridge engineer. "Our dedicated staff is diligent in protecting the public investment in the bridge. We prioritize and address any concerns found in these inspections in a timely way, either through monitoring, contracted repairs, or in-house repairs."

Hansen also recognized H&H structural engineer Richard Wianecki for his many years of service to the bridge. Wianecki is retiring this year after 42 years as a consulting engineer.

"Rick has been involved in inspections at the International Bridge for 15 years and has played an integral role in ensuring the bridge is maintained well," Hansen said. "We appreciate all of his hard work and congratulate him on his retirement."

In other business, the board welcomed one new member and elected board officers. The SSMBA board consists of up to eight members: four Michigan members appointed by the governor and four Canadian members appointed by The Federal Bridge Corporation Limited (FBCL), a crown corporation located in Ottawa, Ontario.

Board member Natalie Kinloch of Apple Hill, Ontario, was elected as the 2023 chair of the SSMBA board of directors.

FBCL recently reappointed current Canadian members Thye Lee and Warren Askew to three-year terms each effective Nov. 1, 2022. The board also welcomed a new Canadian member, Rémi Paquette, to a two-year term, also effective Nov. 1, 2022. Paquette, from Ottawa, Ontario, is FBCL's chief corporate service officer. He joined FBCL (the owner of the Canadian half of the International Bridge) in 2021 as the chief corporate service officer and after 23 years of successful work at the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., another Canadian crown corporation.

"I’m very excited to be joining the Sault Ste. Marie Bridge Authority as a board member," Paquette said. "I believe that together we can provide excellent support and strategic guidance to this very efficient and dedicated team."

Thomas Buckingham Sr. of Newberry, Mich., was elected vice chair for 2023. The other U.S. representatives are Nicholas White, Scott Shackleton, and Linda Hoath.

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