City officials defend delays on Circle South crossing

City manager says Saskatoon did not issue any approvals for the project, blames delay of nearly a year on bridge contractors.

New Saskatoon bridge to open Wednesday

The Circle Drive South bridge will be the first new bridge for the city in 30 years. After almost a year of delays, it's set to open Wednesday. (James Fish/CBC)

A delay of nearly a year on Saskatoon's newest river crossing was caused by bad weather and contractors, according to the city manager.

The Circle Drive South bridge project includes roughly eight kilometres of four and six-lane freeways and interchanges connecting the crossing to the rest of the city. At nearly $300 million, it's the biggest infrastructure project ever for the City of Saskatoon.

It was supposed to open September 30, 2012. At that point the bridge was complete, but the roadways leading up to it were not.

The city said the Circle Drive South crossing will open to vehicles at 8 p.m. CST on Wednesday.

A number of businesses in the construction area said lengthy delays and poorly-marked city detours kept customers away. One business owner estimated he'd lost $1 million in the two years that crews were working on Lorne Avenue South.

"I know some some engineering people and they say there were delays from the city," said Spencer Early, who owns Early's Farm and Garden Supply. "There's lots of blame to go around you know."

In May 2010, informational documents posted by Stantec and the City of Saskatoon list regulatory permits, approvals and authorizations as the number one challenge in completing the bridge. 

But Saskatoon city manager Murray Totland insisted the city bears no responsibility for any delays in obtaining permits or approvals throughout the design-build process.

"The city, at least that I'm aware of, didn't issue any permits for this project," Totland said. "The only permits the contractor would have gotten on this project would be things like environment, oceans and fishery permits for operating in the river, they probably had occupational health and safety permits, things like that."

"We didn't issue any permits on this project so I'm not sure what that allegation would be about," Totland said.

The contract with Graham Flatiron called for a penalty of $10,000 for each day the project was late. If the bridge opens on Wednesday, that would add up to roughly $2.18 million dollars. The city says the final amount it will pay is still being negotiated.

CBC's calls to the project manager at Graham Flatiron were not returned. A manager at Stantec referred all questions about the project to officials at the City of Saskatoon.

Totland says any businesses that lost money during construction are welcome to file civil suits at the city solicitor's office.