If you have seen History Channel’s Ice Road Truckers, who as I’ve noticed are producing less and less “History” programs these days – just saying, then you will understand the danger and inconvenience the northern Territories have had to endure when it comes to travel. For the North Slave Region of the Northwest Territories this is no longer an issue.
Opening today, Deh Cho Bridge spans 1.1 kilometres (0.68 miles) over the Mackenzie River near Fort Providence. It is the culmination of over a decade of planning from its inception in 2000, and its groundbreaking in 2008. The bridge will provide Yellowknife and the surrounding area with a year-round connection to the south through Highway 3. Prior to the engineering landmark, there had never been a permanent structure spanning the river, and thus connecting the geographically isolated area from the southern provinces.
From mid-May to December the Merv Hardie ferry gave limited transportation to vehicles. During the winter months drivers had to endure a trip via ice roads. The melting and freezing periods of the year have historically posed significant problems to businesses in the north. Particularly grocery stores, who have found themselves flying in their stock which paired with already expensive freight costs has led to large sticker prices for the community. The $275 toll fee for semi-trucks will hopefully give way to less expensive tolls in the future and less costs to businesses importing goods from British Columbia and Alberta.
The bridge will remain unpainted to lower maintenance costs and contribute to a longer lifetime, and the load bearing piers are specifically shaped to cut through the ice flows that characterize the melting of the Mackenzie River. The project has cost $202,000,000. With just over 21,000 inhabitants of the Yellowknife area, one may question the cost of such a project, but I for one hope this will lead to greater tourism in the beautiful great white north, lower costs of living and a greater ease of transportation for the people of the North Slave area.
And of course, more interesting and… shall I say thought provoking programing on the History channel.