Premier promotes potential bridge funding model

Tyler Clarke
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The broken “second bridge” record that city council and the Saskatchewan NDP have been playing for almost three years appears to be paying off.

A lineup of traffic is seen trying to cross the Diefenbaker bridge last summer, during which extensive repairs took place, delaying a line of traffic that stretched down several city blocks. 

On Monday, Premier Brad Wall expressed his first indication that the Sask. Party is receptive to the idea of helping fund a second North Saskatchewan River crossing at or near Prince Albert.

“If the city was going to go ahead with a proposal to PPP Canada, which would require the city of Prince Albert to make an investment, would we talk about that?” Wall asked during Monday’s question period. “Absolutely we would.”

Although Mayor Greg Dionne is pleased to see the premier take the city’s perceived bridge need seriously, the province is ultimately passing the buck on to the city.

“We are going to look at that as one of our options, but of course our first option is we do believe it’s a provincial bridge,” Dionne said.

“That’s why we call it the northern bridge. It’s not the city of Prince Albert’s bridge. It’s to benefit the whole north, and it’s to benefit the whole north with economic development and tourism, plus supply a dangerous goods route.”

The province itself recognized the regional nature of the Diefenbaker bridge when they opted to include it in their Urban Highway Connector program, which has funded repairs for almost three years.

“Today we believe they should be the 100 per cent sponsor,” Dionne added. “That’s why they’ve thrown that carrot out there, because they don’t have the money to fund it, but if we kick in … they’ll look at it.”

During Monday’s question period, Wall called to mind the City of Saskatoon’s current P3 application with the federal government for a commuter bridge on their north end.

If the city was going to go ahead with a proposal to PPP Canada, which would require the city of Prince Albert to make an investment, would we talk about that? Absolutely we would. Brad Wall

Although P3s are typically public private partnerships, in this case the three partners include the federal government, provincial government and municipal government -- the same model Wall implied Prince Albert look at.

It’ll be interesting to see whether Saskatoon’s bridge is approved under this model, considering their bridge is primarily for city residents whereas a second bridge in Prince Albert is more regional in scope, Dionne said.

“If you hear them, they call it a commuter bridge, and the main purpose of that is so people on the north end can cut down their commute by 20 minutes,” he explained.

Prince Albert’s elected officials will keep a close eye on the Saskatoon bridge situation, which will set precedent for how or whether a second North Saskatchewan River crossing P3 application proceeds.

Dionne expects to see city council discuss whether they’re interested in making a P3 application at some point within the next month.

“First we have to gather the information because we’ve got to understand what’s involved, and then make a decision once we have the report and the facts in front of us,” he said.

Regardless of council’s decision or how the P3 situation pans out, Dionne said that he’s encouraged to see Wall finally acknowledge the possibly of the province helping fund a second bridge, albeit not 100 per cent as he’d prefer to see.

“They know the bridge is an issue in Prince Albert,” Dionne said. “They thought (the issue) would go away.”

Organizations: Prince Albert, Sask. Party, PPP Canada

Geographic location: North Saskatchewan River, Saskatoon

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