Construction hasn't yet begun on the Pine Point Bridge – which is scheduled to be demolished and rebuilt within the next year – but the detour over the old CN Bridge alongside the existing bridge was completed earlier this fall.
Ann Kulmatycki, a manager at the Department of Infrastructure, said traffic will begin flowing over the railway bridge in mid-January.
If all continues to schedule, the new Pine Point Bridge will be completed by November 15, 2019.
"The truss bridge was installed in 1965 when standard trucks were much smaller and lighter. Traffic has changed significantly since that time and the bridge has aged," explained Kulmatycki, noting that while the existing bridge is 8.2 metres wide, the new bridge will be 10 metres wide.
"In-depth engineering inspections and analyses resulted in the recommendation to either carry out major rehabilitation works or to replace. Replacement was more economical with the added benefit of providing a new bridge with a longer service life," she said.
The new bridge will have a lifespan of 75 years, although it should last longer with proper maintenance.
Kulmatycki said the new bridge will have an open deck and look similar to the Hay River West Channel Bridge.
In the meantime, at 4.5 metres wide, the railway bridge will only be able to handle single-lane traffic controlled by traffic lights or flagpersons during construction.
"Engineers evaluated the old railway bridge and determined that with a driving surface, it could be used to detour traffic during the bridge construction works," Kulmatycki reassured.
Over-load and over-dimensioned vehicles will need permits; no pedestrians will be allowed on the rail bridge, which now has a timber driving surface.
Work on the bridge is being handled by Nisku, Alberta-based Eiffage Innovative Canada Inc, at a cost of nearly $13 million.
Kulmatycki said the contractor has hired local subcontractors, will house workers in Hay River, and will be purchasing supplies, such as concrete, locally.