Premier confirms support for Prince Albert second bridge

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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The province will help fund a second North Saskatchewan River crossing at Prince Albert, Premier Brad Wall confirmed during a Monday visit to the city.

 

The only catch is, the city would have to enter into a P3 agreement.

Wall clarified his P3 stance during a stop at Prince Albert Northcote MLA Victoria Jurgens’ constituency office -- a stance he’s made in generalities for months.

“Our provincial government is committed to funding our share of a second bridge for the City of Prince Albert,” he announced, clarifying that “our share” remains ambiguous at this stage.

“There are no set ratios in the program, so I think that’s something we could work together and explore what the right ratio is for all three partners … and maybe there’s a role for the private sector to join in, as well.“

P3 Canada filters P3 agreements, which link various partners -- government and/or private -- together to fund infrastructure projects. The funding formula is different from case to case.

With a second bridge’s cost estimated in the ballpark of $150 million, Mayor Greg Dionne noted that the P3 agreement is a far cry from the 100 per cent provincial funding he’d set his sights on.

However, Wall clarified that the provincial government is sticking to its guns in support of the Prince Albert and Area Second Bridge River Crossing Study.

Released in January, 2013, the report -- commissioned by the province and city -- clarified that the Diefenbaker bridge will “be in service for primary weigh trucks for another 25 years.”

Before that time is up, the P3 model is the only way the province is willing to fund the bridge, Wall confirmed.

A few hours after Wall’s announcement, Dionne was reserved in ushering support for the P3 funding model, clarifying, “There’s no saying we’ll go down that road.”

On the plus side, if the city goes with a P3, they know that both the provincial and federal governments will be at the table, he summarized.

On the other hand, Dionne said that the city has to do its due diligence in hashing out the pros and cons that come with P3s.

“If you notice in the province of Alberta, a lot of them are steering away from P3s, so we want to know why,” he said.

Whether the city goes with a P3 funding model or another means of funding, the city will be ready, Dionne said.

At Monday’s city council meeting, the city’s elected officials awarded a contract to Vermax Management Canada to develop a new second bridge report.

Although the city’s elected officials have long complained about Stantec Consulting’s bridge report -- namely its argument that a second bridge is not required for more than 20 years -- with some massaging, it can argue in favour of a second bridge.

“We’re using the STANTEC report, but we’ve hired someone, now, who can interpret it to our advantage,” Dionne explained.

One line from the initial report that the city’s consultants are likely to grip onto is Stantec’s estimate that the provincial economy lost $14.2 million over the first six months of bridge restrictions following the discovery of a crack on Aug. 30, 2011.

The city’s elected officials also approved the creation of an eight-member steering committee on Monday to help drive the city’s future bridge aspirations.

If the city agrees to a P3 funding model, their updated bridge report, complemented by the work of the steering committee, will help bring partners to the table, Dionne said. Partners might include surrounding municipalities or even private industry.

Our provincial government is committed to funding our share of a second bridge for the City of Prince Albert. Premier Brad Wall

“It’s a northern bridge, and we haven’t wavered off of that,” Dionne said, noting that a significant portion of the more than 20,000 vehicles that cross the Diefenbaker bridge per day are not city residents.

Wall appeared to mirror this sentiment at Monday’s press conference, noting; “The mining industry is going to significantly benefit from a better route.”

While Dionne joined Wall in welcoming, with some skepticism, the possibility of a P3 agreement, the Saskatchewan NDP projected a more dismissive argument against P3s on Monday.

Whenever governments turn to private corporations to help fund infrastructure projects, the end cost to taxpayers is typically greater, the party argued in a release.

The Sask. Party’s stance on a second bridge is “completely lacking in common sense,” Saskatchewan NDP deputy leader Trent Wotherspoon said in a release.

“If Prince Albert families and municipal leadership wants to build a second bridge and own it themselves, the province says a second bridge is absolutely not necessary in Prince Albert,” he summarized.

“But, if the city wants to allow an out-of-province or international company to build a bridge then rent it back, with interest, and pay more in the long run, then all of a sudden this government thinks maybe Prince Albert does need a second bridge.”

 

Jurgens a second bridge advocate

Although dialogue in the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan debates and previous interviews with media implies otherwise, Prince Albert Northcote MLA Victoria Jurgens said that she’s always been a second bridge advocate.

“There’s always work being done on behalf of Prince Albert, and I’ve worked very hard to make sure that the voice of Prince Albert is brought forward,” she said.

Premier Brad Wall confirmed on Monday that it was because of the insistence of local MLAs that they’ve agreed to fund their share of a P3, whatever that might be.

Local MLAs haven’t let up in ushering support for a second bridge during caucus meetings, Jurgens said.

While she said that she understands the province’s stance in supporting the second bridge study, which notes that traffic counts aren’t great enough to necessitate a second bridge, she’s recognized the area’s professed need.

A P3 model is a means of speeding things up, she summarized.

“It’s a way for Prince Albert to get the bridge if they so desire to do it,” she said. “If we did it strictly with traffic counts, we would have to wait until the growth of the city warrants that.

“I’ve worked very hard with my colleagues to bring the issues that are important to Prince Albert down to Regina, and this shows our commitment to Prince Albert and area, and now we are hoping that the area responds in kind.”

Organizations: Prince Albert, Daily Herald

Geographic location: Saskatchewan

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Recent comments

  • Blondie
    August 11, 2014 - 23:36

    I wonder if Saskatoon has done any "P3's" for their bridges?

  • TREVOR LAPLANTE
    August 11, 2014 - 22:47

    you know valirie i DONT KNOW ABOUT MORE STUDY ABOUT GETING A NEW BRIDGE FOR US ITS TIME TO PUT UP A BRIDGE OR WAIT FOR A BIG ACCIDENT THEN WE HAVE GET A NEW BRIDGE AND WILLL SEND THE BILL TO YOU PAY FOR IT VALIRIE