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Bridge to link winter road
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, March 12, 2009
The earthwork portion of the Blackwater bridge project is currently underway at the site on the Blackwater River, approximately 90 km North of Wrigley.
When it's completed, the structure will be one of 43 permanent bridges that have been built along the winter road route, said Kevin McLeod, director of highway and marine services for the Department of Transportation.
"By the 2010-2011 winter season, it should be ribbon-cutted and operational," said McLeod.
The bridge, which has a total project cost of approximately $20 million, is part of the Mackenzie Valley winter road bridge program. The ultimate goal is to construct an all-weather Mackenzie Valley highway from the point where the road currently stops at Wrigley, all the way to Inuvik and on to Tuktoyaktuk, said McLeod.
One way to do this is to strategically build bridges across the waterways and then connect the spaces between with the highway, he said. In the meanwhile, the bridges help support the winter road season along the valley.
Currently, vehicles cross the Blackwater River in the winter on a snow and ice fill crossing. A bridge will add an extra 10 to 15 days to both the beginning and the end of the lifespan of the winter road at that point, said McLeod.
Bridges are also better from an environmental viewpoint. They keep vehicles off the ice and they remove the need to import snow to build the crossing, he said.
"Our aim is to ultimately cross all the rivers and creeks," McLeod said.
The department still needs to build three more bridges between Wrigley and Fort Good Hope. Either a bridge or culverts are also needed at the Jackfish Creek area before Fort Good Hope.
Moving north towards Inuvik, another five to six structures are still needed depending on the route, said McLeod.
At Blackwater River the finished structure will be a steel girder, multi-span bridge with piers. The bridge will be 300 metres long and 6.8 metres wide. The width is enough for an extra wide single lane that can accommodate large trucks, said McLeod.
Three local organizations are already benefiting from the construction project.
The bridge requires 400 metres of earthworks so the existing winter road will align with it. The contract for the earthworks was awarded to Pehdzeh Ki First Nation (PKFN) in Wrigley with Nogha Enterprises Ltd. and Rowe's Construction working as sub-contractors.
"They put in a very good proposal," said McLeod.
"We're expecting a great project from them."
PKFN has been interested in working on the bridge since the project was first proposed, said R. Paul Nadjiwan, the senior administrative officer and economic development officer for the band.
The bridge is in part of the band's traditional area that has cultural, historical and spiritual significance, Nadjiwan said.
To be able to bid on the project PKFN looked for local businesses in the Deh Cho that were interested in working together on the bridge, he said.
For the community of Wrigley the project is an important opportunity.
"We're trying to enhance the economic capacity of the community and its development corporation," said Nadjiwan.
PKFN would like to have approximately 10 members working on the project. There are opportunities for slashers, camp cooking staff and general laborers.
The contract is being used to help members obtain licenses for operating heavy equipment, he said.
Both PKFN and Nogha are also viewing the project as a chance to build working relationships between first nations.
Because the project is near the Sahtu both the Tulita Land and Financial Corporation and the Fort Norman Metis Land and Financial Corporation were invited to be involved and put forward equipment to be used in the project, said Gilbert Cazon, the interim general manager for Nogha.
The offer was also extended to Deline and Colville Lake.
"We're hoping to build long term relationships with any and all first nation groups that want to work with us," said Cazon.
By joining together first nation groups can bid on larger projects and create employment opportunities for their members, Cazon said.
The projects also benefit because they're done better if the affected first nation is involved, he said.
The earthwork phase of the bridge is expected to be finished by April 11.
In April or May the Department of Transportation plans to release a public tender for the rest of the project including driving the piles, installing the piers and the bridge.
PKFN and Nogha are considering working together to submit bids on the other parts of the project, said Cazon.