‘A VERY LONG TIME COM­ING’

Get­ting around Saska­toon is about to get eas­ier. The Chief Mistawa­sis Bridge opens Oct. 2, fol­lowed a day later by the re­built traf­fic bridge.

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - FRONT PAGE - PHIL TANK ptank@post­media.com twit­ter.com/think­tankSK

When Laura Monchuk heads to the Keith Ur­ban con­cert at SaskTel Cen­tre on Fri­day, she ex­pects it to be the last time she will have to leave so early.

The Ev­er­green res­i­dent thinks she will be able to leave an hour later the next time, af­ter the new Chief Mistawa­sis Bridge opens.

The City of Saska­toon an­nounced the new bridge will open for traf­fic some­time af­ter open­ing cer­e­monies that end at noon on Oct. 2.

For the up­com­ing con­cert, Monchuk will travel to the Cir­cle Drive North Bridge about three kilo­me­tres south of Chief Mistawa­sis.

“We have to leave very early be­cause it gets very backed up,” she said in an in­ter­view.

Monchuk, who is pres­i­dent of the Ev­er­green Com­mu­nity Association, said oth­ers who com­mute daily from the neigh­bour­hood and other east-side com­mu­ni­ties will ex­pe­ri­ence a greater qual­ity of life.

The new bridge will open Ev­er­green to the north end of Saska­toon and make it a more at­trac­tive place to live, she said.

“Def­i­nitely, it will be a time of cel­e­bra­tion for ev­ery­one here and all the pos­si­bil­i­ties that will open up.”

The new six-lane bridge will con­nect ex­ten­sions of McOr­mond Drive and Cen­tral Av­enue on the east side of the bridge with Mar­quis Drive on the west side. Mar­quis leads to SaskTel Cen­tre.

Cer­e­monies will be held on the Chief Mistawa­sis Bridge on the morn­ing of Oct. 2; the fo­cus will then shift to the re­built down­town Traf­fic Bridge. The city plans a noon-hour bridge walk and party there on Oct. 2. The Traf­fic Bridge is ex­pected to open for traf­fic on Oct. 3.

The two bridges were built as part of a $497.7-mil­lion P3 pro­ject — a pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship — that also ob­li­gates the con­trac­tor, Gra­ham Com­muter Part­ners, to op­er­ate and main­tain the bridges for three decades. The com­plex con­tract com­pelled the con­sor­tium to com­plete the bridges’ con­struc­tion by Oct. 1.

Coun. Zach Jef­fries, who rep­re­sents Ev­er­green and other east­side com­mu­ni­ties, has driven fre­quently to check out progress on the bridges dur­ing the three years of con­struc­tion.

“It’s been a very long time com­ing,” he said on Fri­day.

The Traf­fic Bridge closed for good in Au­gust 2010 af­ter sev­eral years of un­cer­tainty over its struc­tural sta­bil­ity, in­clud­ing a pre­vi­ous clo­sure in 2006.

The re­built bridge pays homage to the orig­i­nal, which, as its name sug­gests, was the first river bridge built to ac­com­mo­date pedes­tri­ans and ve­hi­cles in 1907.

The orig­i­nal Traf­fic Bridge had five iron spans, while the new bridge has four.

The Chief Mistawa­sis Bridge was named for the Cree chief who signed Treaty Six af­ter an ex­ten­sive pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion process — the first Saska­toon bridge for which the pub­lic was in­volved in the nam­ing.

The nam­ing delivers on one of the rec­om­men­da­tions from the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion to hon­our In­dige­nous her­itage.

The Oct. 2 cer­e­mony will em­brace that spirit with In­dige­nous lead­ers taking part and some ar­riv­ing on horse­back and by wagon.

“It’s fan­tas­tic,” said Dan Willems, the city’s act­ing gen­eral manager of cor­po­rate per­for­mance.

Willems man­aged the bridges pro­ject start­ing six years ago, be­fore he moved to this cur­rent role with the city.

“No mat­ter how long your ca­reer is, that’s a sub­stan­tial in­vest­ment in your ca­reer,” he said in an in­ter­view.

“How of­ten do you get to build not just one bridge, but two new bridges in your home­town?”

PHO­TOS: KAYLE NEIS

Laura Monchuk, pres­i­dent of the Ev­er­green Com­mu­nity Association, says those who com­mute from her neigh­bour­hood will ex­pe­ri­ence a greater qual­ity of life be­cause of the Chief Mistawa­sis Bridge.

The re­built Traf­fic Bridge will open to ve­hi­cles on Oct. 3.

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