City will not raise taxes to pay for new bridges, Mayor Atchison

Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison said the city will not be raising taxes to pay for the mammoth double-bridge project announced on Monday.

The City of Saskatoon is on the hook for $134 million to pay for North Commuter Parkway, Traffic Bridge

The north bridge is good news for commuters. (City of Saskatoon)

Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison said the city will not raise taxes to pay for the mammoth double-bridge project announced on Monday.

The project involves both the replacement of the 107-year-old Traffic Bridge and the development of the North Commuter Parkway. It will also include work on connecting roadways.

"The city does not do projects unless it has put together a financial plan in advance," Atchison told Saskatoon Morning host Leisha Grebinski on Tuesday. "A lot of communities, they just go out and build something. And then they build it and everyone looks at each other in great amazement that they have to pay for it."

The City of Saskatoon is getting help from both the federal and provincial governments to fund two major bridge projects in the city.

The city will receive up to $66 million through the federal government's P3 Canada Fund, while the province of Saskatchewan will contribute $50 million to the projects. Money from the P3 program, is available only if the private sector has a role in an infrastructure project.

Despite the government funding, the city is still on the hook for $134 million.

The city plans to draw from a variety of sources. These include: gas tax cash ($3.8 million); property realized reserve ($10 million); and the Evergreen Neighbourhood surplus ($20 million).

In the near future, the City of Saskatoon is expected to name a private sector partner who will design, build and then maintain the two bridges for the next 30 years.  

Mayor says new bridges will "improve quality of life"

Mayor Atchison, along with Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, made the announcement at the Meewasin Valley Trail on Monday.

In a news release, Premier Wall called the deal an innovative project. while praising the value of P3 partnerships.

"Saskatoon is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada and the North Commuter Parkway Bridge will help sustain that growth by connecting residential neighbourhoods to the expanding industrial area in the city's north end," Wall said in a release.

The city said it expects these two bridge projects will help reduce traffic congestion and travel times.

The project involves both the replacement of the 107-year-old Traffic Bridge and the development of the North Commuter Parkway. (Peter Mills/CBC)
​ "The capacity on the Circle Drive North Bridge is over capacity already," Atchison said. "University Bridge, the Broadway Bridge, Senator Sid Buckwold Bridge are all needing repairs over the next few years. With the Traffic Bridge open that will certainly help to relieve a lot of those problems into the future."

Construction of the North Commuter Parkway and the Traffic Bridge is expected to take two years.

In the past, many residents campaigned for the Traffic Bridge to be restored into a pedestrian-only bridge. Mayor Atchison said there was "certainly a lot of discussion about that" but allowing vehicles is necessary and only costs about $8-10 million more. However, he said the two new bridges will be pedestrian and cyclist-friendly.

"Pedestrians and cyclists are going to have two brand new walkways - one on each side - that will be three metres in width," he said.

When the city made its application, the proposal had a total price tag of $250 million. It's estimated the North Commuter Bridge would handle about 40,000 vehicles per day.

Zach Jeffries, city councillor for the University Heights area in the city's northeast, said the North Commuter Parkway is needed to relieve congestion.

“I would say that 99 per cent of folks are in favour of this,” Jeffries said. “They think this is the right way to go, something we need to get done. And we're moving ahead with this full steam ahead. It's a very exciting day for Saskatoon.”

The city is now working through its tendering process. The goal is to get the new bridges built by 2018.


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