Saskatchewan

Prince Albert city council consider adding a toll on Diefenbaker Bridge

A new report from the City of Prince Albert looks at the costs of implementing a toll system on the Diefenbaker Bridge, which connects many northern communities with the rest of the province.

Toll collection system could cost city an estimated $1.3 million to install

Prince Albert's city council is considering implementing a toll system on Diefenbaker Bridge. (Shutterstock / Scott Prokop)

The City of Prince Albert is considering implementing a toll on the Diefenbaker Bridge, which spans the North Saskatchewan River.

Introducing a toll system would cost the City of Prince Albert $1.3 million, but it's unclear exactly how much money would be made, according to a report tabled at a city council meeting on Monday. 

"All estimates are speculative," it noted, giving a range of $500,000 to $4,500,000 in annual net revenues, depending on the aggressiveness of toll prices.

It would cost roughly $300,000 per year and nine per cent of toll revenues to maintain the toll system, according to the report. 

Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne was unavailable to comment on the report for this story.

The report was brought about after Prince Albert's councillor for Ward 1 Charlene Miller requested it last year. 

She has previously said she brought the idea of introducing a toll on the crossing to show the government the city is serious about building a second bridge and finding ways to fund the project.

The Diefenbaker Bridge crosses the North Saskatchewan River, on the northern edge of the city.

It also provides access to northern communities such as La Ronge and Montreal Lake, and Prince Albert National Park.

The Diefenbaker Bridge is the only crossing on the North Saskatchewan River for more than 120 kilometres in either direction. Congestion on the bridge has come up as an issue in the past, with the report estimating that 9 million vehicles cross the bridge each year.

Proposed toll is a new tax on residents: councillor

Prince Albert's ward 5 representative Dennis Ogrodnick is against the idea of a toll on Diefenbaker Bridge.

He said he believes a second bridge is needed not for the city, but for the area north of Prince Albert and for the province, with long weekends and summer adding to congestion. 

"In the summertime, 75 per cent of the traffic is not residents of Prince Albert. That's when we have lineups," Ogrodnick said. 

The province and the federal government could consider building a second bridge to make travelling easier for people going to the lakes in the north, but those costs shouldn't be borne by city residents, he said. 

"Taxes always go up but I'm not in favour of a new tax being imposed upon the residents of Prince Albert," Ogrodnick said. 

The Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure would have to approve any toll on the bridge.

Doug Wakabayashi, a spokesperson with the ministry, said if the city puts forward a formal proposal to implement a toll, representatives from the ministry would be willing to discuss the matter.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan Eneas

Reporter

Bryan Eneas is a journalist from the Penticton Indian Band currently based in Regina, Saskatchewan. Before joining CBC, he reported in central and northern Saskatchewan. Send news tips to Bryan.Eneas@cbc.ca.

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