Email this articleE-mail this story  Discuss this articleWrite letter to editor  Discuss this articleOrder a classified ad  Print this page

Mackenzie bridge builder to be picked

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Providence (Nov 07/05) - Four construction companies have been asked to submit their estimated cost to build a bridge over the Mackenzie River.

"That's the last piece of the puzzle, and if the price is right then there's nothing else to stand in the way," said Andrew Gamble, project manager for the Deh Cho Bridge Corporation.

Three Canadian construction companies and one American firm are expected to tender their bids by Dec. 6.

The prices for steel and fuel have risen, but interest rates on long-term bonds remain low, Gamble noted. The key question is whether the bids will be close enough to the Bridge Corporation's $60-million bench-mark to make the venture feasible.

Cost estimates that would force a proposed toll on commercial bridge traffic to exceed $5-$6 per ton would "kill this project," said Gamble.

"It is a bit nerve-wracking," he admitted. "We don't know what general contractors are doing these days. How much profit do they want? How much risk do they see in the project?"

The bids will also outline how the construction firms plan to incorporate local business and training for Fort Providence residents.

Michael Vandell, president of the Bridge Corporation, stated in May that the Bridge Corporation, owned by the Fort Providence Dene and Metis, forecast a minimum profit of $260,000 from the first year of bridge operations. As debt is paid down over five years, the profits should reach close to $1 million, Vandell said.

The Deh Cho Bridge Corporation has obtained all but one of the permits it needs for construction of the one-kilometre bridge, Gamble said. The only one that remains outstanding - the Navigable Waters permit from the Coast Guard - is expected to be granted shortly, he said.

SNC Lavalin Inc., of Vancouver; Peter Kiewit Sons Co. Ltd., of Edmonton; Calgary's Graham Construction and Engineering Inc.; and American Bridge of Coraopolis, Pennsylvania are in the running for the bridge contract.

Approval of the final terms must come jointly from the Bridge Corporation (with community consent), the territorial government and project financier, TD Securities.

The Bridge Corporation hopes that construction will begin next spring. The span should be open to motorists by late 2008.

Michael Nadli, chief operating officer for the Bridge Corporation said, "The significant thing is that we're at the final stretch... we would like to have a good Christmas."