A new bridge over the Hay River is open for business.
According to Chief April Martel of K’atlodeeche First Nation (KFN), traffic began to cross the new bridge at about 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 6.
Martel said the people of the Hay River Reserve are excited to see the bridge opened.
“Now we can’t wait for the ice road,” she said with a laugh.
The new bridge replaces the old Pine Point Bridge, which had carried vehicles over the Hay River for decades.
There is still work to be done on the new bridge, most notably the surface has to be paved.
“They’re going to pave it probably this spring or summer,” said Martel, who noted that the Department of Infrastructure told KFN on Nov. 8 about those plans.
The Department of Infrastructure was unable to provide an interview by press time but did confirm the bridge was open and on budget.
The $12.8-million project to replace the 167-metre-long bridge began last fall.
The new bridge looks much different than the old Pine Point Bridge, which was covered by trusses. The new span is open-decked in the style of the West Channel Bridge.
That means there will no longer be height restrictions on traffic.
As part of the construction, vehicles were detoured since January across a railway bridge, which could accommodate one lane of traffic. The timber-deck detour had traffic lights on either side to regulate the flow of vehicles.
The new bridge has a design life of 75 years, but it is expected to last longer than that with proper maintenance.
Martel expects the new bridge, which will be getting a new Slavey-language name, will be good for the Hay River Reserve.
“I think there’ll be more visitors, more tourism coming into the reserve with this new bridge,” she said.
Along with connecting to the Hay River Reserve, the new bridge also makes travelling easier to Fort Resolution and Fort Smith.