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This article was published 7/10/2009 (4646 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It's official -- the Disraeli Freeway won't be closed for 16 months when the crumbling connection between downtown and northeast Winnipeg is fixed next year.
The city's biggest repair project has expanded in scope, thanks to $53.3 million in new provincial funding that will flow over the next decade, Premier Gary Doer and Mayor Sam Katz said Wednesday, following weeks of speculation.
The province's money pushes the total project cost to about $195 million, but that number may increase when the city decides what the new bridge will look like.
Three companies are currently putting together proposals about how to rebuild the 1.1-kilometre structure that links Elmwood with downtown. Submissions are due at the end of the month.
"It could be a new bridge," Katz said. "It could be the way they do the Lion's Gate Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge where they can do it piecemeal and eliminate the inconvenience," he said, referring to bridges in Vancouver and San Francisco.
"I can't tell you which one because until (the city's public works department) gets a report on them, only then will we know. We don't know today," he added. "We hope to have an answer on which route we're going in approximately 60 to 90 days and then obviously preliminary work can begin right away. Construction will be in 2010."
The city originally said the repair bill would cost $140 million, but only if the bridge was closed during the 16-month project.
That raised a hullabaloo from commuters who besieged their city, provincial and federal politicians. They said entirely cutting off the bridge would create gridlock on other routes like the narrow Redwood and Louise bridges.
The province entered the fray 18 months ago and eventually came to a solution with the city to keep the span open during construction -- albeit at a much higher cost.
"Sam is an assertive mayor," Doer said.
The deal will see the province add $53.3 million to the city's road-building budget over 10 years, bringing the provincial share of the city's $80.9-million road renewal budget in 2010 up to 47 per cent, from 40 per cent the year before.
"This is a big, big project for the City of Winnipeg," Doer said. "That's why having the province involved, especially with the issue of convenience, longevity and bikes incorporated, is a good decision for the people of north-east Winnipeg and the taxpayers of all the City of Winnipeg."
Doer said the new bridge will be built to last 75 years and will have components for cyclists and pedestrians. It remains unclear whether the city will still build a separate bike-and-pedestrian bridge at Annabella Street or include a bike lane on the rehabilitated span.
"You're not going to have to compete with a truck going across a new freeway," Doer said.
Despite the lack of detail, North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty said he was satisfied to hear the mayor and premier finally made the deal official.
"The most important thing is there won't be a 16-month closure," he said. "That was the main concern for residents of northeast Winnipeg."
The project is a public-private partnership, which means the private construction consortium that wins the bid will design, build and maintain it and lease it back to the city. The city plans to borrow $75 million from banks to pay for the project, while the builder may finance the rest.
How much the private partner puts into the project as well as the lease arrangement have yet to be discussed.
"At the end of the term, it will be turned over to us in the same condition it was from day one," Katz said.
Speaking from Ottawa, Elmwood NDP MP Jim Maloway said Katz misled Winnipeggers by suggesting it could cost $300 million to keep the freeway open during construction.
All about the Disraeli Bridges
The Disraeli Bridges, including a bridge over the Red River and overpass over Point Douglas and the CPR mainline, were built in 1959-60;
It's named after British politician Benjamin Disraeli (1804 - 1881), who is said to have uttered: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."
It was opened by Mayor Steve Juba and Premier Duff Roblin Oct. 19, 1960;
It cost a whopping $5.2 million to build with the Roblin government kicking in $2.6 million. Winnipeg's share was largely taken up by land purchases, which totalled $1,818,701.
The cost breakdown? The bridge: $2,158,573; the expressway: $1,618,187; downtown approaches to expressway: $1,272,508.
Prescient quote: "It's amazing to me that the province paid almost half," Winnipeg city council alderman Frederick Walter Crawford said in 1960. "It's more than I expected."
When the Disraeli opened, it had a metal grated-deck, meaning your car tires hummed when you drove over it. Grating was commonly used as decking on bridges to allow snow, ice and dirt to fall through, preventing the bridge from becoming slippery. In 1971, the city spent $600,000 to pour concrete onto the deck.
For more info on the bridge project, go to www.winnipeg.ca/publicworks/MajorProjects/DisraeliBridges/