Construction underway on N.W.T. bridge over Mackenzie River

After years of debate in the Northwest Territories, construction of a $165-million all-season bridge over the Mackenzie River has begun this summer.

After years of debate in the Northwest Territories, construction of a $165-million all-season bridge over the Mackenzie River is underway.

Construction of the Deh Cho Bridge over the Mackenzie River began in mid-June. ((CBC))
When completed, the Deh Cho Bridge at Fort Providence, N.W.T., will link Yellowknife to southern Canada year round, replacing the current summer ferry service and winter ice road across the river.

Work on the bridge began later than scheduled this year, as river ice kept builders out until mid-June.

"We got a little bit later start than we'd hoped, but the contingencies are in place to make up for lost time," said Frank Flanagan, the project manager for Atcon Construction, which is the primary contractor for the bridge.

The Deh Cho Bridge, which is being financed by the territorial government and banks, is expected to be ready for traffic in the fall of 2010. It will generate some income from tolls on commercial traffic.

"I think people are pretty excited about it; like, finally, we're going to get to the southside … year round, anyway," Chief Berna Landry of Fort Providence told CBC News.

The construction site has become an attraction for residents in the community of 730, as well as for people crossing the Mackenzie River by ferry.

A temporary bridge currently juts halfway across the river from the south bank. That bridge is being used as a platform for putting all the pieces in place for four massive piers that will be built later this year, bridge officials said.

Four more piers will be erected next summer. Then the deck, girders and railings will be installed in the summer of 2010.

The bridge construction has created jobs for 60 people this summer, with 20 of those from Fort Providence. Most of the resident employees are working on the temporary bridge and the camp on the river's south shore.

Landry said she hopes community members will get better jobs over the next two years.

"Right now it's just mostly labourers," she said. "But down the road they'll probably have more training, like welding and that type of thing."