The Yukon government is moving ahead with its largest ever capital project. a $160 million replacement for the Nisutlin Bay Bridge.
Officials recently announced the project will be built by Graham Infrastructure LP.
“The Nisutlin Bay Bridge is a very significant landmark for Teslin,” said Krysten Johnson, manager of communications and public relations for highways and public works. “Not only that, but it is also a very important piece of infrastructure for the Yukon’s economy, serving as a critical transportation link for the territory while keeping us connected to the rest of the country.”
Johnson explained the bridge is situated on the Alaska Highway, making it a major artery for goods and essential services into the territory. The bridge was originally constructed by the Department of National Defence and opened to the public in 1955 but now is nearing the end of its life cycle.
The new bridge deck will be concrete and overlaid with asphalt pavement.
“An asphalt surface will allow for a smoother drive than the current bridge deck which can actually be quite noisy and bumpy,” noted Johnson.
The new bridge will be 483 metres in length and 13.375 metres wide to accommodate heavier truck traffic.
It has been designed to facilitate two lanes of traffic. It will also host a wide shoulder for cyclists to bike across and a LED lit sidewalk for pedestrians to cross safely away from traffic. A walkway will also be built underneath the bridge so snowmobiles and pedestrians can cross safely.
Johnson said the project will require between 20 to 45 workers living in the community during construction.
“The community of Teslin is quite small, so a bridge project of this size will bring more economic opportunities for local business,” she said. “Our goal is to ensure minimal impact to the community during construction, however, there will be some noise associated with the pile driving taking place this summer.”
While some work activities may take place during the winter, most of the construction work will take place during the summer months. The new bridge will be built beside the existing bridge and will remain open with some minor occasional delays. Following construction, the existing bridge will be demolished.
Construction is set to start this month. The initial work will consist of mobilization, site preparation, bringing in granular materials and riprap sources.
Officials are aiming for decommissioning of the existing bridge between fall 2025-spring 2026 with the full bridge open to the public by spring 2026.
Johnson said engagement with the community has been critical for the project.
In 2019, the Yukon government signed a historic Project Charter with the Teslin Tlingit Council which led to the Nisutlin Bay Bridge replacement project. The project charter aims to minimize disruptions for the community during construction and maximize economic benefits for local residents.
“Our team has met regularly with the Teslin Tlingit Council, the Village of Teslin and the community since early 2020 to share the design elements and our environmental studies and plans, incorporating feedback throughout the process,” said Johnson.
Over the next few years, the team met with the community to determine the location of the new bridge and worked with affected local businesses to ensure minimal impacts to their work and way of life.
In 2021, the two potential contractors for the project came and introduced themselves to the community while discussing local opportunities with residents and businesses.
“It was important that the potential contractor also met with the mayor and Naa Sháade Háni (Chief) of Teslin to learn what it would be like to live and work in this small, northern community,” said Johnson.
The project will also be incorporating the Yukon First Nation Procurement Policy, which was drafted from scratch in collaboration with Yukon First Nation governments. The policy came into effect in October 2021 and offers a number of incentives for all businesses in the territory and encourages more Yukon First Nations participation.
“This specific project will ensure a number of local and community development opportunities including involvement in environmental monitoring, gravel pit development and the design and installation of artwork to be installed on or near the new bridge,” said Johnson. “As well as contracting opportunities, the contractor has committed to providing many training hours to help develop local skills and build up the workforce in the community.”
Johnson noted the Yukon government believes the project will bring meaningful economic growth to the territory and provide an important link along its busiest trade route.
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