Province to fund $200M Macdonald Bridge repair
Massive Macdonald Bridge repair project set to begin in 2015, will take about 18 months to complete
Nova Scotia taxpayers will cover the $200-million loan to repair the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge.
The provincial government has agreed to lend the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission (HDBC) to complete the large project which is set to start in 2016.
When the commission added a third lane to the bridge in 1999, it went to private lending institutions to find the money but Steve Snider, general manager and CEO of the HDBC, said borrowing it from the province is a much better deal.
"My responsibility is to the users of the bridge. I’m looking for best value and in terms of borrowing the funds from the province, by far this is the best value. In terms of interest rates, the folks that we’ve dealt with, our financial advisors have commented, that they don’t believe that we’ll get a better rate anywhere else," he said.
That rate will be determined between the province and the bridge commission once the work is completed.
Beginning in 2015, the bridge road deck, floor beams, stiffening trusses and suspender ropes will be replaced. The HDBC said this will extend the life of the 60-year-old span and reduce future maintenance.
The work is expected to take a year and a half to complete. The massive job will see the bridge shut down to traffic between 7 p.m. each evening and re-opening at 5:30 a.m. the next morning.
Spans of the bridge will be removed and lowered to a barge below and and new spans lifted into place.
Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald said it makes sense for the province to step up and finance the work.
"We have a business entity that has a very good track record in terms of reducing its debt load, this is work that needs to be done, so financing in this way makes sense and will offer the best deal for commuters and for people of the province," she said.
MacDonald said the loan won't add to the province's debt as the project is being funded through the general revenue fund. When an external entity borrows and then pays back money it is not added to the province's debt.
The commission estimates it will be able to repay taxpayers over a 20 to 25 year period.
The Angus L. Macdonald Bridge was opened in 1955 and was named after the former premier who was instrumental in the bridge being built.
A modernization project was undertaken in the late 1990s and completed in 1999 which saw the original two lanes, one sidewalk and utility corridor expanded to three lanes, with the centre lane being reversed to assist with traffic flow during peak periods.