Finding a silver lining in this month’s disappointing bridge report, the city’s elected officials have endorsed the location where they’d like to see a bridge constructed.
Earlier this month, a bridge report by Stantec Consulting Ltd. noted that traffic volume will not necessitate a second North Saskatchewan River crossing near Prince Albert for another 30 years, and that the Diefenbaker bridge, if properly maintained, will hold up for 25 more years.
The report also identified a couple locations east of the city as being ideal for a second bridge – a finding Coun. Lee Atkinson latched onto with a motion for council to endorse one of these locations.
“Council never really endorsed any particular element of any of the reports, (which) I think was one of our failings,” he said, noting that this isn’t the first bridge report to come before council.
“The first thing we need to do is stop trying to identify a location every time it comes up,” he said. “I think what we’ve had confirmed in the newest report is that a second river crossing probably, or likely, is to be outside the city.”
Council’s endorsement of a second bridge location east of the city allows the first steps to now take place, Mayor Greg Dionne noted.
Although council spun a positive out of the bridge report, Coun. Don Cody closed council’s discussion on the topic by venting his frustrations and pleading for local MLAs to not stand behind the report.
As indicated earlier this month, local MLAs Darryl Hickie and Victoria Jurgens have both decided to support the report’s findings, alongside the Saskatchewan Party.
“Surely you’re not going to turn your back on the citizens of Prince Albert just because you have a report in your hand,” Cody urged.
I think what we’ve had confirmed in the newest report is that a second river crossing probably, or likely, is to be outside the city. - Coun. Lee Atkinson
“I think they’re better citizens than that, and if they don’t (support a second bridge), tell me that we’re second class citizens in this city, because that’s, to me, what it appears we are.”
The main argument against a second bridge is that traffic volume doesn’t justify one -- but, Cody asked, are there any bridges built in the province that meet or exceed this traffic volume guideline?
Coun. Charlene Miller backed this idea, agreeing that Mayor Greg Dionne should send a letter to the provincial government asking this question.
It’s not just the city’s elected officials that are still pushing for a second bridge, despite the report’s findings.
Prince Albert and District Chamber of Commerce CEO Merle Lacert said that the chamber has sent out a survey to its membership asking for additional input on this subject.
“From what we’ve seen, there have been significant impacts, and some of our members are wishing for us to continue our advocating for (a second bridge), and we see that as a long-term project,” he said.
So far, response is strongly in favour of there being a need for a second bridge, he said.
In the first six months that followed a crack discovered on one of the Diefenbaker bridge’s girders, resulting in lane closures and weight restrictions, the Stantec report estimates a total economic impact of $14.2 million.
During his State of the City Address last week, Dionne said that he plans on bringing the need for a second bridge back to the forefront of discussion as soon as a provincial election is called.