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$36-million rehab of Miles Hart Bridge gets go-ahead

Grant Cameron
$36-million rehab of Miles Hart Bridge gets go-ahead
PHOTO SUBMITTED — Pictured is the Miles Hart Bridge in northern Manitoba.

A $36-million rehabilitation of Miles Hart Bridge which spans the Burntwood River in northern Manitoba has been given the green light by the province.

The bridge is three kilometres north of Provincial Trunk Highway 6 in Thompson. It is a vital link between Thompson and northern communities and an important conduit to the Alamos gold mine exploration project. 

Engineers have been working on designs for the structure, according to a spokesperson for Manitoba Finance, and construction is scheduled to begin this month.

“The design for the rehabilitation of the Miles Hart Bridge is completed,” the spokesperson said. “The construction is tendered and awarded with work scheduled to begin in the summer of 2022.”

The project is expected to be substantially complete in 2024. It is part of a three-year capital investment strategy announced by Manitoba Transportation Infrastructure (MTI) in the province’s 2022 budget.

The work is being done because the bridge is 51 years old and has exceeded its design service life of 50 years.

“Many components of this structure require rehabilitation in order to extend the service life of the bridge,” the spokesperson said.

The bridge, named after a local Indigenous trapper, is a five-span steel girder structure that is 173 metres long with a reinforced concrete deck.

The rehabilitation work will extend the life of the structure, the spokesperson said. Specifically, crews will repair the piers and abutments and rehabilitate and repair the steel girders as well as make modifications to accommodate a wider structure and sidewalk.

The existing concrete deck will be replaced with a new, wider surface to meet current design standards and the existing sidewalk will be removed and replaced.

The City of Thompson was involved in the preliminary design of the project and, as requested by the city, the design calls for the sidewalk to be relocated to the east side of the bridge to better meet the needs of the community. The province will also include safety fencing on the bridge as requested by the city.

While work is under way on the bridge, motorists will be restricted to a single-lane for much of the time.

“Engagement with key stakeholders was undertaken on construction staging to minimize the impacts of single-lane operation while maintaining the project schedule,” the spokesperson said.

The project will provide an improved, safe and sustainable bridge crossing on Provincial Road (PR) 391. The road is a main thoroughfare for many northern areas that require PR 280 and PR 391 to access the provincial highway network and is the sole access route for communities such as Norway House, Leaf Rapids and Lynn Lake.

The bridge project will also help to facilitate development by creating employment and boosting the local and provincial economies, the spokesperson said. “For example, Lynn Lake is located on PR 391 approximately 320 kilometres north of Thompson, serviced by PR 391 and is also the site of the Alamos gold mine exploration project.”

The Alamos gold mine is particularly important to the region. Once operational, it is projected to extract 145,000 ounces of gold per year, with an expected mine life of 12 years. It’s anticipated the mine will create more than 500 jobs.

The company has indicated that ore hauling will begin next year, using a significant stretch of PR 391.

“Our government recognizes the importance of quality infrastructure in strengthening transportation routes and contributing to economic development, a commitment we confirmed in the three-year capital plan announced as part of Budget 2022,” Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Doyle Piwniuk said in a statement.

“This project will provide an improved, safe and sustainable bridge crossing on Provincial Road (PR) 391 for residents and communities in northern Manitoba, while also helping to facilitate economic development by creating employment and boosting the local and provincial economies.”

Thompson Mayor Colleen Smook said the bridge is a critical route between Thompson and northern communities that the city serves.

“It’s also essential to our place as a transportation hub for northern Manitoba, connecting road and rail cargo to our airport, one of the busiest ones in Manitoba,” she said. “It’s served a growing north for more than 50 years, now it can connect us for another 50.”

MTI has partnered with the community to pay tribute to Indigenous culture by featuring inspirational sayings in local languages on artwork at the bridge entrances as part of the project.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Grand Chief Garrison Settee said it is essential to see investments that maintain and rehabilitate critical infrastructure in northern Manitoba.

“MKO citizens travel to Thompson regularly to access healthcare services. Everyone deserves access to safe highway infrastructure,” he said. “I encourage the Province of Manitoba to continue investing in our region.”

MTI has a number of other strategic infrastructure investments under way along PR 391 to benefit northern communities, including culvert replacement 84 kilometres south of Lynn Lake, guardrail and hazard protection improvements from Thompson Airport access to three kilometres north of PR 280, and structure rehabilitation near Leaf Rapids.

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