Province confident Diefenbaker bridge is enough
Saskatchewan’s Minister of Highways and Infrastructure says Diefenbaker Bridge is more than capable of handling the current traffic load, meaning there’s no urgency to build a second bridge in Prince Albert.
On Tuesday, Minister David Marit took time to respond to a bridge inspection report put out on Monday by independent firm ISL Engineering and Land Services.
The authors of the report said repairs made in 2011 are holding up, but added that additional cracks are appearing beyond naturally occurring wear and tear. The authors attributed the cracks to poor original construction.
Marit said they have short, medium and long-term plans in place to keep the bridge functioning, which should make it capable of handling future loads.
“I don’t think our urgency has changed a bit,” he said. “In fact, I think, what this does for us is give us a pretty good comfort level that the bridge is quite capable of handling the traffic.”
The ministry plans to put sensors on the bridge to help measure truck traffic, which will help identify weak points in need of repair.
Marit said they were concerned about truck traffic and the state of the bridge, but he’s confident the report shows it’s in solid condition. He expects the bridge to remain usable for at least another 15 to 20 years, if not longer.
“I think the bridge can take more truck traffic,” he said. “Obviously we’re going to really have to watch closely with the weights. That will be the issue, and I think in working with the city we’ll work through that.”
Marit added that there are older bridges in Canada bearing more traffic, so it wasn’t unrealistic to maintain the bridge for “a very, very long time.”
The minister’s comments didn’t sit well with the provincial NDP, who called for the government to reconsider their plans.
“It frustrates me that this government still doesn’t understand that Prince Albert needs a second river crossing,” Prince Albert Northcote NDP MLA Nicole Rancourt said. “The report is good and fine, but the reality is that we need two river crossings.”
Rancourt said having a single bridge without an alternate route for truck traffic means traffic flow could grind to a halt if an accident or emergency occurs.
She’s confident the Diefenbaker Bridge is safe enough to bear the load. It’s other safety aspects that have her worried.