City hopeful Walterdale Bridge will open to traffic in September

The bridge construction is nearly two years behind schedule but remains on budget, according to city.

'We were overly zealous in what we thought could be done,' says city infrastructure official

The City of Edmonton updates the status of the new Walterdale Bridge 0:54

The City of Edmonton says it has a commitment from the contractor building the new Walterdale Bridge that it will be open to traffic in September.

It would mean the $155-million project would be finished nearly two years late. But the city is still not making any guarantees.

"Given the performance in terms of the ability to meet schedule, I'm wary about giving a specific date," said Adam Laughlin, the deputy city manager of integrated infrastructure services.

Speaking on a media tour of the new bridge Thursday, Laughlin admitted the city had not set realistic expectations for the completion date, which was originally supposed to be November 2015.

"We were overly zealous in what we thought could be done and that was something the contractor committed to. So from our perspective, the contractor committed to a date," Laughlin said.

The city says most of the complex work has been completed on the new Walterdale Bridge, which it hopes will be open to traffic by September. (Sam Martin/CBC)

There were well-documented delays in the arrival of the 2,600-tonne central arches from South Korea.

Construction project manager Ryan Teplitsky said he understands the frustration of Edmontonians, but a number of other issues made the bridge a much more difficult job than initially expected.

"The sheer size of the arch, the complexity of the foundations, the fact the steel changes its length based on temperatures," Teplitsky said.

At this point in the build, all of the most intricate work is now complete, Teplitsky explained, adding that only bad weather can further hamper things.

Dry conditions are needed for paving the bridge deck, which could be done within a couple of days under the right conditions, even though it's 230 metres long and 14 metres wide.

Workers are still constructing barriers and the bridge deck still needs to be paved. (Sam Martin/CBC)

However, while the bridge is expected be open to traffic by September, the attached shared-use path will not be ready until a couple months later.

Missing the target date for the bridge continues to hit the contractor in the pocket, with fines totalling $17,000 per day still being levied.

"That's the incentive that we're hoping will encourage the contractor to get this bridge open as soon as possible," Laughlin said, explaining the total fines for damages could be negotiated at the end of the project.
Primer and white paint still needs to be added to the central arches of the bridge, which towers 54 metres above the river. (Sam Martin/CBC)

Eighty-five people are still working on the bridge, which has already racked up one million person-hours of work. 

While acknowledging it's been a difficult journey, Laughlin is confident the final product will be a bridge Edmontonians can be proud of.

"It's going to be spectacular for the river valley once it's all complete."