Feds and N.W.T. government announce $50M for long-awaited Frank Channel Bridge replacement

An aging N.W.T. bridge, built in 1960, is going to be replaced with $37.5M announced from the federal government, coupled with $12.5M from the territory. The new bridge is promised to have a larger carrying capacity.

On Friday, $37.5M was announced from the feds, coupled with $12.5M from the territory

The Frank Channel Bridge is fairly narrow. In the past, MP Michael McLeod has said the trucking industry struggles with the bridge's height and width restrictions. (Kirsten Fenn/CBC)

An aging 61-year-old bridge in the Northwest Territories will be replaced with $37.5M announced from the federal government on Friday, coupled with $12.5M from the territory. 

N.W.T. MP Michael McLeod made the announcement on behalf of Omar Alghabra, the federal minister of transport, and was joined by Diane Archie, the N.W.T.'s deputy premier and minister of infrastructure.

The N.W.T.'s Frank Channel Bridge on Highway 3 has been in need of replacement so it can meet "current and projected traffic loads," according to the territory's website, and planning for a new bridge is underway. In 2018, the territory announced initial plans to replace it.

A resident points out a rusted bolt during a walk over the bridge in May 2018. (Kirsten Fenn/CBC)

"Transportation and distribution of goods are essential for our northern communities," McLeod said.

"This project will ensure the safe and reliable transportation of goods and provide community members with more flexible access to important resources."

The new bridge is promised to have a larger carrying capacity and McLeod said it should help with resilience against climate change, as well as employment and distribution of goods. 

Construction is expected to begin in 2022 and it should be complete by 2024. The government will still have to put the project out to vendors. 

Traffic isn't expected to be affected during construction, Archie said, as people will use the old bridge while the new one is being worked on.

The structure was built in 1960 and is the only roadway connecting the Behchokǫ̀ communities of Rae and Edzo, as well as part of Highway 3, which connects Yellowknife to southern Canada. The bridge has undergone a series of repairs over the years.

In the past, residents have raised safety concerns around the bridge, pointing out issues like tarnished bolts and beams, and the bridge's rusted sidewalk. McLeod has also previously said the trucking industry struggles with the bridge's height and width restrictions.