A ceremony Thursday afternoon officially launched the construction of the North Commuter Parkway Bridge.
The sod-turning event, attended by officials from the city, provincial and federal governments, also marked the official launch of the new Traffic Bridge. Both spans were bundled together as part of a private-public partnership project (P3).
The P3 calls for contractor Graham Commuter Partners to build the bridges and then operate them over a 30-year period, with the city still retaining ownership. The total cost for the project over the 33-year contract life is estimated at $497.7 million. That includes $252.6 million in estimated construction costs.
Both bridges are expected to be finished in 2018. The six-lane North Commuter Parkway is expected to carry 20,000 vehicles per day in its first year of operation.
John Connolly, Graham’s senior vice-president of infrastructure, said about 175 would be working on the project at the peak of construction. All told, he said the contract represents over one million hours of work, with most of it being handled by local professionals.
“That includes our designers who are local. It includes our subcontractors who are all local and it includes all the Graham personnel who are on the site,” he said.
Graham was founded in Moose Jaw in 1926, branching out across Western Canada, and eventually growing into a major construction company across North America.
Connolly said the bridge projects are creating something of a homecoming for many of the company’s workers.
“A lot of our Saskatchewan people have moved to other provinces to work, and on this particular project, a significant number of them are really coming back home to work where they grew up and they’re citizens of Saskatoon and they’re very excited about it,” he said.
Connolly said work is set to begin on an access road on the south side of the river. The company is still working with regulators to secure the permits it needs for work in the water.