Deh Gah Got'ie First Nation
Fort Providence Métis Council
Hamlet of Fort Providence
Ruskin Construction Ltd.
Infinity Engineering Group
Levelton Consultants Ltd.
Sargent & Associates
EBA (a Tetra Tech Company)
BPTEC-DNW Engineering Ltd.
T.Y. Lin International
On September 28, 2007, the Minister of Transportation signed a Concession Agreement with the Deh Cho Bridge Corporation (DCBC) to design, construct, finance, and operate a cablestay bridge across the Mackenzie River near Fort Providence on NWT Highway 3.
When complete, this 1.045 kilometre (0.65 mile) bridge will replace the operations of the Merv Hardie ferry (summer) and the Mackenzie River Ice Crossing (winter) currently used to cross the river at that location. A fixed bridge will eliminate lengthy and uncertain disruptions during winter freeze-up and in the spring during break-up.
Over the years, the Ferry has encountered mechanical problems, sometimes taking several days to fix with little or no notice to travellers. The Ice Crossing is also susceptible to temporary closures to allow for maintenance. The Deh Cho Bridge, when complete, will provide northern residents and visitors travelling this stretch of highway with a safe, reliable all-weather road, available 24 hours per day, 365 days of the year, for the next 75 years (the design life of the bridge) or more.
The Deh Cho Bridge is a valuable economic development and infrastructure project that will benefit the residents of the NWT for many decades to come. During construction, the project will provide economic opportunities such as employment for many NWT residents. When complete, businesses and residents of the North Slave Region will benefit from the long-term advantages of having a fixed bridge which are expected to exceed the cost of the commercial toll. Potential investors are more likely to consider a future in a region with a reliable and permanent transportation system. Overall, the cost of living for all northern residents will decrease, while their quality of living and ease of travelling will improve.
A more efficient trucking system will further reduce the costs for businesses, industries and individuals in the North Slave Region. Commercial carriers will be able to operate their fleets year-round, without interruptions in the spring and fall. With a permanent bridge in place, more competition can be expected as the risks associated with freight transportation over a ferry and ice crossing system are reduced.
The bridge has reduced maintenance demands compared to the existing ferry and ice crossings, and poses few environmental and safety risks. The ice crossing must be constructed each year and normally lasts for about 3-4 months before it closes to travel. Operating the ferry comes with the risk of fuel spills, idling vehicles, and the need for approximately half of a million litres of oil. These factors will be greatly reduced with the fixed bridge, and the elimination of the need to fuel ferry operations will help the GNWT meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets.
Major construction on the Deh Cho Bridge began in the spring of 2008. A temporary bridge was built on each side of the river to facilitate the construction of the eight concrete pillars that would run the width of the Mackenzie River. By April 2009, the four southern piers were installed, with the four northern piers completed in spring 2010. The highest risk element of constructing the bridge, the in-water foundation, is finished and the bridge is 50% complete.
As with any major project, there have been several challenges and issues to overcome. These had the effect of increasing the overall price of the bridge and delaying completion. The GNWT is moving forward with a new design, a new contractor, and a new relationship with the lenders. There is in place a solid and effective plan for the completion of the Deh Cho Bridge by Fall 2012.
2008 and 2009 Construction
After the Concession Agreement was signed, additional testing and reviews of the Deh Cho Bridge’s design revealed the need for modifications to ensure the bridge met Canadian Bridge Code standards. A redesign was recommended as a cost-effective way to deal with the original design which did not meet Bridge Code Standards. The Infinity Engineering Group of Vancouver completed the redesign in January 2010.
In the 2008 and 2009 construction seasons, DCBC was responsible for construction and on-site management, while The Department of Transportation (DOT) provided an on-site representative to ensure the interests of the GNWT and NWT residents were well represented.
Atcon Construction was the original general contractor on the project. However, in June 2009, the company was relieved of their management and coordination of on-site work for the 2009 construction season due to their failure to remedy four Notices of Default and to make scheduled payments to sub-contractors. Atcon continued in 2009 to supply, fabricate, and deliver the steel required to construct the piers, and to provide the construction camp, accommodation and meals.
With a redesign of the bridge underway, negotiations with Atcon for a revised price, terms, and project schedule were needed. These negotiations were unsuccessful in establishing an acceptable cost for the remainder of construction, and both parties agreed to part ways. Atcon received formal notice of termination from the project at the end of December 2009. Negotiations for the settlement of the terminated contract are underway.
To meet a March 1, 2010 lenders deadline to have a contract in place for the remainder of the bridge construction, DCBC entered into negotiations with Ruskin Construction, the sub-contractor which had been principally responsible for construction during the first two seasons. Those negotiations were successful, resulting in a contract agreement with Ruskin to complete the construction of the bridge by November 2011.
In early March 2010, the lenders issued a notice of default against DCBC, alleging a failure to meet the critical milestone of having a completed design in place. They also withheld approval for release of construction draws until the Assumption Agreement was signed by the GNWT. As a result, GNWT assumed responsibility and management of the project from the DCBC, including management of the debt.
The GNWT is confident about the future of the Deh Cho Bridge, and looks forward to seeing the project completed by November 2011. The GNWT is working with the community of Fort Providence to ensure ongoing opportunities arising from the Deh Cho Bridge to the community. The GNWT is also confident about the opportunities a fixed bridge will bring to the North Slave Region and the NWT overall.
The expected construction cost of the Bridge is $182 million. The bridge is being financed by the savings from the elimination of the ferry and ice bridge operation, $2 million annually (inflating) from the GNWT, and a toll on commercial vehicles crossing the bridge. Passenger vehicles will not be charged a toll.
Levelton Report Documents (PDF unless otherwise noted)
1 Levelton Report - GNWT Response and Action Plan (January 2011)