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Deh Cho Bridge or D'oh! Bridge

New bridge provides a permanent link to the rest of the world.

FORT PROVIDENCE, NWT. — No more unreliable ferry and no more ice bridge for trucks needing to get goods into the Northwest Territories North Slave region.

Last Friday, residents from nearby communities joined Premier Bob McLeod to officially open the $202 million Deh Cho Bridge that crosses the Mackenzie River, along the Yellowknife Highway.

Based on the calls that Today's Trucking received from truckers, the bridge was open to traffic before the Friday's ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Have you seen these tolls, truckers asked us. "Two-hundred and some-odd dollars per trip!" See below for the bridge tolls.

The bridge, initially estimated to cost $50 million 10 years ago during its intial conception, will be funded primary by commercial vehicles — anything over 4,500 kg. Passenger cars are not required to pay tolls.

It's been a long time coming, too. The construction process was tripped up with a multitude of various types of delays — funding problems, construction issues, you name it.

Ray Archer, manager safety and compliance with Venture West Transport, based out of Fort Saskatchewan, AB., estimates that they "probably run a hundred loads per day out of there, easily."

Before the bridge was complete, vehicles had to wait for the ferry or for an ice bridge to be built, each option with its own series of problems. The river would get "chugged up with ice," Archer explained to, "and other times the water is low and they can only take one truck at a time." And the ice bridge would take three or four weeks to build.

A grocery store manager in Yellowknife, speaking to CBC, said that they would spend $150,000 to $200,000 in freight when the ferry was down for long periods. Having a permanent link to the region allows them to better manage their stock, too.

But that doesn't mean residents will see a drop in their grocery bill.

The time saved not having to wait for the ferry is the real benefit, Archer said. While Venture is passing on the cost to customers, Archer is skeptical if, in the long-run, it will be a cheaper way to move goods. Add the cost of fuel to the tolls, and very little money looks to be saved. "I don't think it's going to be much different."

It was estimated that the cost of the bridge would be paid off by commercial traffic in 35 years, but with the unexpected $202 million price tag and truck traffic reportedly down, there's skepticism as to whether that will happen.

"I think that there are about three companies that will end up paying for that bridge," quipped Archer.

Deh Cho Bridge Tolls:

Class A: commercial vehicles with two to four axles

• $75.00 (monthly remittance with transponder-equipped vehicle)

• $91.25 (single-use toll permit)

Class B: commercial vehicles with five or six axles

• $150.00 (monthly remittance with transponder-equipped vehicle)

• $166.25 (single-use toll permit)

Class C: commercial vehicles with seven or more axles

• $275.00 (monthly remittance with transponder-equipped vehicle)

• $291.25 (single-use toll permit)

For more information and specs on the new bridge, click here.

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