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The Merv Hardie ferry passes by the partially-completed Deh Cho Bridge on the Mackenzie River at Fort Providence, N.W.T., in June. ((CBC))

Plans to finish building the Deh Cho Bridge in the Northwest Territories have encountered another delay, as the steel components that will be used are undergoing tests.

The steel was supposed to start arriving at the bridge site at Fort Providence, N.W.T., in mid-September, but the arrival date has been pushed back to Oct. 18.

The N.W.T. government's project manager for the bridge, Kevin McLeod, said engineers in Quebec are conducting trial assembly runs on the steel parts to ensure their design meets standards.

McLeod said he is not worried about the latest delay because any problems identified now will save time down the road.

"I'm convinced that the quality is in the work, and my overall goal of the project is a safe and secure bridge," McLeod told CBC News.

"If I'm investing in an extra four weeks of making sure it's done properly at this end and at the fabrication end, then I'm investing well into the future."

The partly completed bridge, which will span the Mackenzie River, has faced a number of delays in recent years, including contract disputes and design problems.

The bridge's costs have also risen: the price tag has ballooned from $155 million to $182 million.

Earlier this year, the N.W.T. government took over full responsibility for the bridge from the Deh Cho Bridge Corp., which was previously a partner with the government.

Slated to open next fall

Originally slated to open in the fall of 2010, the bridge is now scheduled to be completed in November 2011.

To keep construction on track, McLeod said crews will build the bridge from both ends at once, as opposed to building from the north side first.

When asked if having construction take place on both sides of the bridge will cost the territorial government more money, McLeod said he does not believe that to be the case.

"It's something that the contractor has committed to," he said. "He has to commit to the schedule, and he has, and he'll do what he needs to do to get to the schedule."

But Yellowknife Kam Lake MLA Dave Ramsay, a critic of the Deh Cho Bridge project, pointed out that working in the winter will take longer and cost the government more money.

"If construction is going to need to take place over the winter months, that's not an easy environment to be constructing a bridge like that for the guys that are out there," Ramsay said.

"It's going to be cold and when you're erecting steel like that, I'm not sure if erecting it in cold temperatures like –35 C to –40 C is optimal."

Ramsay said he has a hard time believing the bridge will be completed by the target date of November 2011.