The topic of the Taylor Bridge replacement came up Thursday morning during a ministers' panel discussion at the North Central Local Government Association's annual convention.
Moderator and Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman asked provincial transportation minister Rob Fleming about a timeline on a new bridge over the Peace River, an issue regional politicians want to be kept at the forefront.
“I'm very excited about the Taylor Bridge,” said Fleming in his response via video link to Ackerman's question. “It’s been looked at many times by previous governments and the engagement we’ve had with the community working group we have on the bridge is informing some decisions we’re going to make going forward. And they’re going to be very expensive.”
Fleming said he believes the bridge is a "very strong candidate" for a federal partnership.
“It’s greatly important as a trading corridor, and as and inter-provincial connection with the oil and gas sector in Alberta and British Columbia, in addition to being crucially important for people who live, work and play in communities that rely on that bridge," he said. "I think we’ve got them in agreement on the need to invest in trading corridors. We want to make a very strong economic case for that. It’s going to help our case to have passionate and, if need be, louder voices from the region to be with us to successfully get a federal investment."
The mayor of Taylor agrees with that assessment.
"I truly believe that the governments are starting to recognize the importance of that bridge and to the trade of not only northern Canada but Alaska as well," said Rob Fraser. "I know our MP has been working tirelessly to promote the idea of a change in the Taylor Bridge.”
A light-hearted moment in the conversation came when Ackerman called the structure the holiest bridge in all of B.C., eluding to the amount of praying done for those who travel back and forth over the span.
When asked, Peace River North MLA Dan Davies didn't feel there was anything new in what the minister said to NCLGA delegates.
“Not at all. There was no commitment. It was more on the continuum that we're working on a plan, we're consulting a plan. We've been here since 2017," Davies said. "I've looked at the budget myself. It's not even in the long-term. I'm glad the conversation is happening, but I want to see it in the budget.”
While Fraser has been a longtime advocate of a bridge replacement, he doesn't see it the same way.
“Anytime you hear these ministers talking in a positive way about doing something about the crossing over the river, I'm not going to cast any aspersions on anything the minister says when it's in a positive way," he said.
Ackerman, another backer of a full replacement not just a refurbishing, felt the answer to her question was 'status quo.'
“They've got the committee working on the bridge. I honestly think the last two years we've gone through has impacted a lot of infrastructure projects because the construction just wasn't able to be done.”
In saying that, she's hopeful the project is still on the radar, pledging to keep it there, and, if needed, telling Fleming she'll gladly make the trip to Ottawa with the province to lobby for the necessary funding.
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