Reiterating the bridge report released last week, local MLAs Victoria Jurgens and Darryl Hickie are in agreement that Prince Albert doesn’t need a second bridge.
The report states that, with proper maintenance, the Diefenbaker bridge should be able to carry its primary weight for the 25 years remaining in its design life, and that traffic volume isn’t likely to justify a second bridge for up to 30 years.
“If this report had told us that the capacity of the bridge was exceeded, then it would have been, ‘Yes, move forward with as second bridge,’” Hickie said.
“With the current maintenance agreement in place and the fact that the lifespan of the bridge is many years into the future, it’s not necessary to have a second bridge right now in Prince Albert.”
The bridge report, commissioned and steered by the province, City of Prince Albert and the RMs of Prince Albert and Buckland, is “one of those kind of documents that you look to as a government to shape the future for any infrastructure needs,” Hickie said.
“I would just say that the report gives us a framework as a government moving forward, and the city and region to see economic development and growth, as I said before, drive the need for a second bridge, and that’s where it is right now.”
Although she also stands by the report, Jurgens said that the caucus table remains, as always, open for discussion of any issue.
“The constituents have indicated that a second bridge is what is wanted,” she said.
But, she remained ambiguous as to whether she’s still pushing for a bridge, reiterating the report’s findings that a second bridge is not needed.
Hickie said that he will advocate for a second bridge when the traffic volume justifies it.
For now, he said that he will be “making sure that the ongoing maintenance of this bridge is looked at, moving forward.”
If this report had told us that the capacity of the bridge was exceeded, then it would have been, ‘Yes, move forward with as second bridge.' - Prince Albert Carlton MLA Darryl Hickie
That, he said, is his “primary focus with the bridge right now.”
Although the recently wrapped-up bridge repairs cost the province $4.2 million under the Urban Highway Connector Program, Hickie said that some work needs to be done to make sure the program is better defined to fund the remaining bridge repairs that are required.
Discussion needs to take place with stakeholders, he said.
“With the ongoing maintenance, how is it that the city can identify its need and apply for the funding?” he asked.
“If the government has the Highways and Infrastructure minister at the table, it makes it easier towards those goals, so those are the kinds of things that we need to iron out as we move forward with the Urban Highway Connector Program.”
In addition to its conclusion that a second North Saskatchewan River crossing isn’t required near Prince Albert, the report cites a loss of $14.2 million to the provincial economy in the six months following Aug. 30, 2011.
During this time, weight restrictions and lane closures were in place as a response to a crack found on one of the bridge’s girders.
Both Hickie and Jurgens are Saskatchewan Party MLAs, with Hickie representing Prince Albert Carlton and Jurgens representing Prince Albert Northcote.
The entire bridge report document is available on the city’s website, at www.citypa.ca, accompanied by the bridges 2010 inspection report.
A full transcript of the Daily Herald’s conversations with Hickie and Jurgens will be available online, at www.paherald.sk.ca, on Friday morning, with very minimal edits.