A prominent Alberta industrial association says it is pleased with the province's commitment to upgrade a key piece of transportation infrastructure just outside of St. Albert.
As part of its 2023 budget, delivered by Finance Minister Travis Toews on Feb. 28, the UCP government earmarked $60.5 million over three years for the Vinca Bridge replacement as part of its transportation three-year capital plan.
“We have a number of infrastructure priorities (in the Industrial Heartland) .… the Vinca Bridge was at the top of the list, or near the top of the list. We're excited to see capital allocated to it,” said Mark Plamondon, Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association (AIHA) executive director .
The bridge was built in 1967 on Highway 38 near Redwater and crosses the North Saskatchewan River, connecting Strathcona and Sturgeon Country. The upgrade will increase its load capacity.
“Right now, the bridge is not capable of handling oversize, overweight loads. It is part of the defined, oversize overweight road corridor in Alberta going north and south, but the bridge does not have the capacity to handle overweight, oversized overweight loads,” Plamondon said.
Plamondon said the bridge is essential for moving a significant amount of industrial traffic. If, in the future, a large-scale industrial facility was being constructed, modules could be transported from the east side of the river to the west side without having to go much farther away to find another heavy-load corridor bridge.
“(The bridge) adds to our competitiveness, it adds to the overall assets that are in the region and really adds to the value that the Industrial Heartland brings to capital investment here,” Plamondon said.
Alberta’s Industrial Heartland includes land in five municipalities. The City of Fort Saskatchewan, the Counties of Lamont, Strathcona and Sturgeon, and the City of Edmonton’s Energy and Technology Park are all part of the 582-square-kilometre “industrial energy cluster.”
The area has attracted over $45 billion in total investment, Plamondon said, and is Canada’s largest hydrocarbon processing region.
The Vinca Bridge upgrade was announced in 2018 to support Alberta’s High Load Corridor within the Industrial Heartland, but the plan was scrapped after a provincial government change in 2019.
According to a news release, the bridge saves carriers 200 km of travel and approximately $10,000 per trip compared to the previous route.
The Vinca Bridge upgrade was included in the Budget 2023 capital plan announcement on March 2 by Transportation and Economic Corridors Minister Devin Dreeshen, and includes $8 billion for the ministry over three years.
The total capital investment is $2 billion for planning, design and construction of major highway and bridge projects, according to the news release.
Other projects receiving funding from the province are “the Calgary and Edmonton ring roads, Highway 3 twinning, Highway 11 twinning, and replacing the Highway 2 and Highway 556 interchange at Balzac. This capital investment funding also includes $75.5 million over three years for 23 engineering or planning projects to address known future needs," a government news release says.
Plamondon said the AIHA focused on making the region competitive on a global scale and the bridge will add to the attractiveness of the region and in attracting foreign capital.
“The bridge is reaching the end of its life. It needs to be replaced and the government committing funds to replace it with an upgraded bridge that can handle high loads is a win for the region,” he said.