VANCOUVER (Reuters) - The Canadian government said on Tuesday it will fund the building of a new bridge at a key border crossing between Ontario and New York state, which was the venue of a tense stand-off between area Mohawks and border guards last summer.
The C$75 million ($72 million) North Channel bridge in eastern Ontario will replace an older bridge and is designed to ease traffic congestion and create jobs, a government statement said.
The bridge will connect the city of Cornwall with Cornwall Island in the St. Lawrence River. The island is the home of the Akwesasne Mohawk native tribe and is linked to Massena, New York, via the South Channel bridge.
Together the two bridges form the Seaway International Crossing, a major transportation route for commercial and passenger vehicles.
“Through this initiative, our government is creating local jobs and supporting the future economic growth of the region,” said John Baird, government leader in the House of Commons and former transport minister.
The Seaway Crossing was shut down for six weeks last year amid protests by members of the Akwesasne community -- which straddles the Canada-U.S. border -- against a decision to arm Canadian border guards.
The Cornwall border post was previously on Cornwall Island in Akwesasne Mohawk territory. It was shut down in June 2009 and reopened some six weeks later off the island.
The Canadian government said it is in talks with Mohawk leaders about aboriginal participation in the construction of the new bridge. The Mohawks are renowned as ironworkers who have built bridges and skyscrapers all over Canada and the United States.
The funds for the new bridge, which is expected to open to the public by spring 2016, were approved in the 2006 federal budget, the statement said.
Canada and the United States are also exploring options to expand facilities at North America’s busiest border crossing point, between Windsor and Detroit. One option would see a new bridge built beside the existing Ambassador Bridge, which carries about a quarter of all Canada-U.S. trade.
Reporting by Nicole Mordant; editing by Rob Wilson