The provincial government will be spending $90 million to upgrade the Highway 38 bridge south of Redwater.
The upgrades will allow the bridge, originally built in 1967, to accommodate heavy or oversized loads of more than 200 tonnes, making it easier for industrial traffic to move in and out of northeast Alberta.
Approximately 2,000 vehicles cross the bridge every day.
Alberta Minister of Transportation Brian Mason made the funding announcement Friday (May 25) in Fort Saskatchewan at Alberta's Industrial Heartland Association headquarters.
“This river crossing will save time and money as these critical loads travel into and come out of our northern regions,” Mason said. “The new bridge will become a major component of the High Load Corridor and will help the energy sector become more competitive.”
Mason said the existing designated high load route takes truck traffic on a time-wasting 200-km detour. The revamped bridge will give heavy trucks a faster, more direct way to cross the North Saskatchewan river as they travel to oilsands and industrial areas further north.
“Getting the products and materials needed to the oilsands in a timely manner is a critical link in the supply chain. It's a supply chain that starts in the Edmonton region and even as far south as Red Deer," Mason pointed out.
It's estimated that the new route, which will also include improved roadways, will save industrial carriers time and fuel equating to about $10,000 per trip or more than $5 million a year. The shortened travel time will also cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, Mason said.
Planning and design on the bridge project will begin this year, with construction set to start in 2020. Mason said the project will support about 265 direct construction jobs as well as 190 jobs in associated industries.
Redwater mayor Mel Smith said the bridge announcement was “tremendous.” The existing bridge is part of the daily commute for many residents of the town.
“The bridge isn't in very good shape right now,” Smith added. “They've been holding off until they determined what they were going to do. So this is certainly a plus for us.”
Smith believes the economic benefit of the new route could be even bigger than what the province is predicting.
"Some of the estimates that we had was up to $35,000 per load because it saves two and half days of travel time for some of the big vessels and modules. So it has the opportunity to create huge, huge investment opportunities."
Gale Katchur, mayor of Fort Saskatchewan and chair of Alberta's Industrial Heartland Association, said investment in area bridges is good news for industries.
"I'm very pleased because the province is looking after vehicle movement across the Highway 15 bridge and getting the heavy haul corridor across the Vinca bridge. So these are two very critical bridges that are needed in Alberta's Industrial Heartland. So it's very exciting news for us today."