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Jessa Sinclair looks over the railing as the Merv Hardie ferry crosses over to the Fort Providence side of the Mackenzie River. A new GNWT plan proposes to put a bridge across the Mackenzie by 2010. - NNSL file photo

Deh Cho bridge to be completed by 2010

Adam Johnson
Northern News Services
Published Friday, August 17, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - As outgoing premier Joe Handley made his parting remarks at the legislative assembly Wednesday, he claimed victory on an important and long-running issue - a bridge across the Mackenzie River.

"I am pleased to report this project is proceeding," he said.

"However, due to construction cost escalation, the total project cost is now over $150 million."

That price tag puts the bridge $20 million over Handley's May estimate of $130 million.

At that time, Handley warned it was time to move forward before prices got worse.

"If we had done it (in 1978), it would've cost $6 million, then it was $70 million (and) if we wait another year who knows how much it will cost, $150 (million) or $160," he said at the time.

Handley said the GNWT is considering a "formal offer" from New Brunswick construction company Atcon Group. He said the company would build the bridge with a "guaranteed maximum price," with a completion date of 2010.

He said the bridge was "a done deal," in an interview after his remarks, though there was still work to do.

"It will take another six weeks to wrap up details surrounding the financing of this project," he said.

This will allow the Deh Cho Bridge Corporation to begin as much as $5 million in preliminary work in the area.

Funding, he said, will come from a commercial toll of $6/tonne on the bridge, as well as savings from the elimination of the ferry and the ice crossing.

Handley also committed the government to spending $2 million a year on the bridge to keep tolls at $6/tonne. The GNWT will continue to seek money for the bridge from federal infrastructure programs, he said.

"Given the rising cost of construction in Canada, this is probably our last realistic opportunity to build a bridge across the Mackenzie River."

In May, Kam Lake MLA Dave Ramsay said he was leery of the project until the facts were made clearer.

"We haven't seen a business case, we haven't seen the numbers, and I'd like to know how we can build a $130 million bridge with our eyes closed."

MLAs had not officially responded to the premier's comments at press time.