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Closure of LaSalle Causeway in Kingston, Ont. blocking cruise ships

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The closure of the LaSalle Causeway in Kingston, Ont. is causing concern for cruise ship companies, ahead of May 1, when all of their ships are scheduled to launch.

1000 Islands Cruises has three ships. The Island Queen is already taking passengers for tours out of the Kingston harbour, which the company says is normal for this time of year.

But the Island Belle and the Island Star, the company's other ships, are both docked on the north end of the Causeway, and the clock is ticking to get them to the other side.

"We have two boats that are trapped on the wrong side of the bridge," explained Eric Ferguson, the general manager of the Kingston 1000 Islands Cruise. "We need those boats out. It's not an option to leave hundreds of tons of marine tourism assets in Kingston on the wrong side of a bridge."

The bridge, which is owned and operated by the federal government, was damaged during routine construction on March 30.

It connects drivers and pedestrians in the east end of Kingston to downtown. Last week, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) said the bridge would not be open by May 1, and offered no definitive timeline to reopen.

Ferguson, along with representatives from St. Lawrence Cruises and Ontario Waterways Cruises, proposed a contingency plan to the PSPC. They are seeking a temporary removal of a concrete section of the bridge to allow the ships to pass through once.

"That's the preferred option on the table right now," Ferguson continued. "That's the ability Public Services and Procurement Canada has to reopen navigation on this navigable waterway. That's what they should do and they should do it next week."

CTV News Ottawa requested comment from PSPC on Monday, but it did not comment directly on the proposal.

"Although timelines to complete repairs remain unknown," PSPC said in a release, "our teams continue to work diligently to re-open the bridge as soon as possible."

The release says the bridge is being repaired with a phased approach.

Ferguson and the 1000 Islands Cruises, meanwhile, remain frustrated.

"As of right now, we don't have any engagement on timeline at all and that is really impactful," he explained. "It means that we have to make decisions for these vessels, for visitors to Kingston, for the huge amount of economic impact that comes from that based on really very little information." 

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