Pine Point Bridge to get upgrade

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo The Pine Point Bridge over the Hay River will be upgraded beginning in 2018.

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
The Pine Point Bridge over the Hay River will be upgraded beginning in 2018.

The Pine Point Bridge across the Hay River will get a major upgrade beginning in 2018.

That was one of 13 infrastructure projects announced July 7 by the federal government and the GNWT.

“It’s in the planning stages already,” said Transportation Minister Wally Schumann of the work on the Pine Point Bridge. “It’s scheduled to start in 2018.”

Over two summers, Schumann said the project will include repairing the concrete of the piers and abutments, steel strengthening, concrete bridge and deck rehabilitation, replacement of bearings and deck joints, plus sandblasting and painting the bridge.

“It will probably look like it’s brand new,” the Hay River South MLA said of what the bridge will look like when the work is finished.

At a news conference in Yellowknife on July 7, the federal government and the GNWT announced $80.9 million in joint funding to improve accessibility to and from remote communities in the North and to ensure the movement of goods across major trade routes.

Ottawa will provide $60,675,000 through the Small Communities Fund for the 13 projects and the GNWT will contribute the remaining $20,225,000.

The Northwest Territories Highway Improvement Initiative includes the rehabilitation of nine bridges, three access roads, and the construction of a four-bay highway maintenance facility in James Creek. The projects are also aimed at repairing aging roads and improving structural capacity of existing infrastructure.

The projects are going to be done over the next five to seven years, Schumann said. “So it’s spread out over different fiscal budgets.”

Among the goals of the initiative are to ensure effective access to areas of high mineral potential, reduce exploration and development costs for industry, and lead to economic growth.

“By working in partnership with our territorial partner, we will make smart investments that promote sustainable development in the Northwest Territories,” said NWT MP Michael McLeod in a July 7 news release. “The highway infrastructure investments announced today will have a positive and lasting impact on the quality of life for Northern Canadians for years to come.”

Schumann said investments in the NWT’s transportation system help to improve the safety of the travelling public, adapt to the effects of climate change, lower the cost of living, and support economic opportunities in communities.

“Funding agreements with Canada are critical for these transportation infrastructure improvements, and we hope to continue this successful partnership,” he said in a news release.

Schumann told The Hub that the initiative is going to help rebuild infrastructure across all regions of the NWT.

“Most of our infrastructure was built way back in the early ’50s and ’60s,” he said. “So all our aging infrastructure is starting to catch up to us and we need this federal program to help us maintain and keep the system working.”

Schumann said the highlights of the funding announcement are probably the bridge work in the southern portion of the NWT.

“I’d say the bridges probably stand out and maybe the Inuvik access road, as well,” he said.

Along with the Pine Point Bridge, there will be upgrades to the Buffalo River Bridge, about 55 km east of Hay River on Highway 5. That $9-million project has already been awarded and has started.

“We got the authorization to jump ahead on that one just because of the way the season rolls out because it’s got to be a summer project,” Schumann said. “And that particular project needed to get going and that was already tendered out in March and it’s already in progress.”

The minister said the Pine Point Bridge was constructed in 1965 and the Buffalo River Bridge was built in 1964.

“So both of them are over 50 years old,” he said.

Schumann said he doesn’t know the exact cost of the work on the Pine Point Bridge because it has not yet been tendered.

The Frank Channel Bridge near Behchoko will also be upgraded.

“In the previous government, they hired a consultant and they had a look at all the bridges and came back with options of what the government could do, which was based on rehabilitating them or replacing them,” said Schumann. “The best approach that was chosen was to rehabilitate them and give them roughly another 35 years of life. That was the best value for the money for us.”

Paul Bickford