Construction of the Deh Cho Bridge across the Mackenzie River has fallen behind schedule, according to N.W.T. transportation officials.

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Kevin McLeod, the N.W.T. government's project manager on the Deh Cho Bridge, speaks to reporters Thursday in Yellowknife. ((CBC))

The one-kilometre span near Fort Providence, N.W.T., was supposed to be completed before the spring river breakup, so that work on the bridge's decks would start in June, according to the Transportation Department's schedule for the $182-million project.

But construction on the south side of the river has not even started yet, and it won't start until the ice clears up in May, government project manager Kevin McLeod said Thursday.

"For [the contractor] it was all or nothing. He could either get the whole 400 metres done on the south side or get nothing done," McLeod told reporters in Yellowknife.

"If he got 100 metres out, and then the ice came and destroyed that 100 metres, he would be $50 million in the hole and he would have to take that risk. I think he assessed that, and said it's just too risky for him."

As a result of the delay, McLeod said construction crews will have to remove temporary bridges from the river during breakup, then put them back in weeks later.

Company will assume extra costs

McLeod said it will be up to Ruskin Construction, the bridge's general contractor, to figure out how to make up for the lost time and pay for any added costs.

Despite the construction delay, McLeod said he is still hopeful the Deh Cho Bridge will be ready sometime in November, which is when it's officially slated to open.

But earlier this week, federal Auditor General Sheila Fraser said she would not be surprised if the bridge does not get finished on time.

Fraser, who was in Yellowknife on Tuesday to release her audit of the bridge project, said she would also not be surprised if costs exceed the $182 million that's currently budgeted.