With structures only as strong as what supports them, nobody knows the Diefenbaker bridge’s true lifespan.
This is why the Prince Albert Area Second Bridge River Crossing Study is “the world’s greatest study,” Coun. Don Cody asserted with seething sarcasm.
Although the city’s elected officials, chamber of commerce and various individuals and organizations have made countless arguments against the report since it was released in January, a revelation made during Saturday’s city budget committee meeting is providing detractors with stronger validation.
On the table during budget deliberations was a $45,000 budgetary request for a Diefenbaker bridge underwater pier inspection -- something an accompanying budget summary notes, “has never been completed on the Diefenbaker bridge.”
“Other structures of this type have experienced river scour at their bridge piers, which may expose or undercut the pier footings, with potential structural instability ensuing,” the summary warns.
The bridge study that Cody has little love for notes that “repairs have been effected which should allow this structure to attain its typical 75 year primary weight capable service life, which means it will be in service for primary weight trucks for another 25 years.”
“How in the world can they say that this is structurally sound for 25 years when they didn’t look at the piers?” Cody asked. “There’s something wrong here, folks.”
Although Cody criticized Stantec Consulting for their work on the bridge study, city manager Robert Cotterill clarified that “they did what we gave them the money to do to inspect the bridges to the level we expected them.”
“What amazes me is, how can a professional put their name to a report like this that says it’s structurally sound -- and clearly, the piers are part of the structure,” Cody countered.
“I took offence to that comment, too, because I do not believe they know … the structural condition of that bridge, yet,” Cotterill said, noting that the inspection crew was different than the group that wrote the final bridge study document.
Frustration spreading through council chambers, Coun. Martin Ring successfully motioned to have the city deny the $45,000 budget request, and to pass it on to the province.
Having dealt with the Saskatchewan Party’s spreading of misinformation when it comes to this topic, Cotterill agreed that passing the expense on is the next logical step.
“I like the idea of going back to the minister, and saying ‘You told us it was a good bridge -- prove it!’”
How in the world can they say that this is structurally sound for 25 years when they didn’t look at the piers? - Coun. Don Cody
The province’s Highways and Infrastructure Minister Don McMorris has stated in the past that the city failed to adequately inspect the bridge, and on March 7 told the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan that “in Prince Albert they tore apart the bridge, and they wouldn’t even repave it.”
The city routinely inspects not only the Diefenbaker bridge, but various other structures as well, Cotterill clarified.
Another misconception has been that the province is paying for everything taking place at the bridge -- an idea the $45,000 underwater pier inspection city budget request dispels.
The province is only paying for bridge repairs directly related to its structural strength -- basically only what prevents it from falling into the river, Cotterill explained.
It’s not just those in the Prince Albert area who have remained vocal about their perceived need for a second river crossing near Prince Albert.
In Regina, the Saskatchewan NDP have brought the issue up during six of the first eight meetings since the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan’s spring sessions began on March 4.
During this time, they’ve not only brought it up during asides, but also at length including a question period discussion on March 7 and a line of questioning with Prince Albert Northcote MLA Victoria Jurgens on March 14.
“Why does she and her government not support building this important infrastructure, a bridge in Prince Albert?” Saskatchewan NDP MLA Trent Wotherspoon asked.
Jurgens responded by accusing the NDP of a guilty conscience for not building a bridge during their time in power.
Dissatisfied with this response, NDP MLA Buckley Belanger reiterated the question to either Jurgens or Prince Albert Carlton MLA Darryl Hickie -- both of whom have thrown their support behind the Prince Albert Area Second Bridge River Crossing Study, and have both confirmed that they are not advocating for a second bridge.
“Yes or no?” Belanger asked. “Are you going to build them that bridge? And if it’s going to be no, come clean with your answer and tell the people of Prince Albert that you cannot deliver.”
Neither answering yes nor no, Jurgens responded by reiterating her accusations against the NDP -- such as that, when the Diefenbaker bridge needed repairs in 2003, “the NDP wouldn’t even honour the agreement that required the government to pay for 50 per cent of the cost.”