Fort Saskatchewan city council agreed on Tuesday (Jun.26) to kick in up to $1 million towards the cost of the planned Highway 15 pedestrian bridge.
The city will be providing the funding as part of an agreement with the River Valley Alliance (RVA), a non-profit group working to build trail connections and amenities through seven area municipalities that border the North Saskatchewan River.
The new pedestrian link between the Fort and Sturgeon County will be built as part of Alberta Transportation’s Highway 15 bridge twinning project. The projected $4.5 million cost of the foot crossing will be split between between the city, the RVA and Sturgeon County. The RVA will be covering 2/3 of the estimated construction costs, with the city and Sturgeon County sharing the rest in a 60/40 split.
Sturgeon County has already agreed to cover their share.
"This is an opportunity to take advantage of the province twinning the Highway 15 bridge across the North Saskatchewan River and to incorporate a pedestrian bridge as part of that particular project," said councillor Gordon Harris, who is also the city’s representative on the RVA board.
Combining the bridge with the Highway 15 twinning is expected to substantially lower the cost of the pedestrian crossing. In a presentation to council the RVA estimated a total bill for the city of about $900,000.
Councillor Ed Sperling said the agreement was a great opportunity for the city, pointing out that a previously proposed plan to build the crossing using the old CN railway piles would have cost about $13 million.
Mayor Gale Katchur agreed with Sperling.
“We’ve been asked by residents for a number of years when we were going to use those pilings to get a crossing across the river,” she said. “It’s not quite what I had anticipated but you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. And yes, $1 million seems like a lot, but it’s a lot less than it would be if we were doing it ourselves.” Katchur also emphasized that the bridge would serve not just Fort Saskatchewan but the wider region.
Council also agreed to cover the estimated $25,000 yearly cost of routine maintenance on the bridge, committing the city to taking care of snow removal, garbage cleanup and other tasks once the bridge is completed in about 2022.
The city will also be responsible for connecting local river valley trails to the new crossing.
The proposed pedestrian bridge has an “underslung” design with a lower-level walkway that will keep pedestrian and bicycle traffic separated from vehicles.