October 16, 2015 — The Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge will celebrate the completion of the 16-month-long, $8.9 million (USD) toll plaza project with a ribbon-cutting and a public open house next week. The ribbon-cutting and plaza dedication for invited guests will be from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21. The public open house will be from 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22.
The ribbon-cutting celebration will include the raising of the U.S. and Canadian flags, singing of both national anthems by the binational Sweet Adelines choir, Native American drummers, comments from dignitaries, unveiling of the plaza dedication plaque, and project tours. The public open house will also include project tours.
The new administration building and seven toll lanes replaced the 53-year-old building and five toll lanes built in 1962 as part of the original bridge project. The new plaza will improve customer safety by providing more southbound traffic merge space between the U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspection booths and bridge toll booths. The project also provides a dedicated customer service area and parking.
“The journey to this celebration began seven years ago when we commissioned the initial study to identify the project scope and cost,” said Peter Petainen, International Bridge Administration (IBA) chief financial officer. “From that, we put in place the plan to fund the project from our financial reserves and the project came in on budget and on time.”
In conjunction with the project, the IBA also implemented a new toll software computer system. Installation of the system software and hardware was coordinated with the construction to minimize customer inconvenience. The new system replaced a 15-year-old computer system that no longer had programming support. To mark the celebration, the IBA will be rolling out the last of the customer service features supported by the new system. Beginning Oct. 21, customer access to online accounts, automatic account replenishment via credit card, and credit card usage in the office will be available.
“This has been a very successful project despite its complexity in terms of maintaining toll traffic and bridge operations,” said Karl Hansen, bridge engineer. “The project construction team consisting of Devere Construction and Northwest Design Group did a great job helping us minimize the impact on our customers.”
The Sault Ste. Marie Bridge Authority Board will meet in the board room of the new facility for their quarterly meeting Oct. 22 to coincide with the celebration.
“The public open house is to express our gratitude to our customers for their patience and understanding during this project and the transition from the old toll system and booths to the new ones,” said Phil Becker, IBA general manager. “Our toll staff did an excellent job providing exceptional customer service throughout.”
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.