The government-certified ice bridge over the Yukon River in Dawson City officially opened on Dec. 23. (Jim Regimbal/Department of Highways and Public Works)

Dawson City gets its sanctioned ice bridge for Christmas

Work on the bridge wrapped up on Dec. 23

Dawson City’s ice bridge has become a storied failure. There has been a string of hang ups — a snowcat plummeted through last year; the year before that saw water hopelessly sprayed at the river — until now, and just in time for Christmas.

Light vehicles can now cross the river from the town to West Dawson. Not that they couldn’t before, as some crafty locals have been known to take it upon themselves to jerry-rig their own bridges, but this one is government-certified as safe.

Right now, it can sustain cars and trucks weighing up to 5,000 kilograms.

“Some mentioned it as being Miracle on 34th Street, but I guess this is miracle on Front Street,” said Jim Regimbal, northern area superintendent for the Department of Highways and Public Works, on Dec. 23, the day the bridge officially opened. “It’s a good year. It’s nice to have a good news story for the ice bridge.”

The bridge is 152 metres long, 15 metres wide. Come Dec. 30, though, it will undergo an expansion, whereby vehicles with more heft can travel across. By then it will be 40 metres wide and able to hold 40,000 kilograms.

The last time a sanctioned bridge like this went in was three years ago, said Regimbal, adding that its opening comes slightly ahead of schedule. Construction is climate pending, he said.

Crews met their deadline, he said. The project’s budget was $200,000.

There were some challenges. Ice build-up had to be shaved down.

“It’s still a little bit rough, but if people take their time, it’s safe and it’s sanctioned so that people can go back and fourth on it,” Regimbal said.

“The main difference was Mother Nature working with us, but also having a contractor that all they do is build ice bridges, so having that expertise.”

The company, Big Ice Services, out of Saskatchewan, is responsible for decommissioning the bridge. Part of its contract also involves submitting recommendations for future bridges.

Dawson Mayor Wayne Potoroka said Dawsonites haven’t really ever been landlocked — they’ve built crude bridges in the past.

“Frankly, there’s a lot of people who it doesn’t really affect their lives one way or the other,” he said. “That lifestyle is still pretty pervasive over there. There’s a lot of people who enjoy that separation, but I guess one thing to say is we really appreciate the effort that the Yukon government department of highways has made to make this ice bridge a reality. I think it’s been a real challenge for the past few years.

“To have a way that they can get across sufficiently and, most importantly, safely is pretty critical for everybody, not just for them (residents in West Dawson), but us on this side of the river.”

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

Dawson City

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