The Yukon government may save Ross River’s footbridge after all.
Yesterday the territory announced it would issue a request for proposals to stabilize the 70-year-old suspension bridge so it is no longer at risk of collapse. This comes after residents of the community camped out on the ice this month to prevent contractors from demolishing the structure.
Until now the government had repeatedly insisted the bridge is unsafe and needs to come down. An engineering report from September found that the footbridge over the Pelly River is at risk of imminent collapse and poses a threat to human safety.
The bridge was constructed by the U.S. Army in 1944 to carry an oil pipeline over the river, and was later retrofitted as a footbridge. It has been in disrepair for decades.
On top of the risk to people, the ferry runs on a cable next to the bridge. If the structure fell, it could cause damage to the ferry and harm the people on board, government officials have said.
Yesterday, Premier Darrell Pasloski insisted that his government’s priority is still public safety.
“What has changed is that we’re going to look at … options to stabilize the structure, and that will allow the ferry to operate once it’s stable,” he said.
“We’ve heard a lot of people talk about different opportunities that could exist, and really we’ve heard very clearly from the community. It certainly has got the support of the community.”
Community members first took to Facebook expressing their desire to keep the historic structure.
Then earlier this month a group began camping out around the clock in what was seen as a last-ditch effort to save the bridge.
One local engineer, Robert Wills, insisted the footbridge could be made safe with only minor repairs.
Last week the premier sent top party officials to the area to meet with the community.
So far the government has only committed to stabilizing the bridge so options for repair can be considered. It’s unclear how much it will cost, or what will happen to the contractor who was hired to take it down. The $171,490 contract to take down the bridge was awarded to Klondike Welding Ltd.
Ross River Dena Council Chief Brian Ladue praised the government for its decision.
“We feel that together our respective governments can find solutions to secure, make safe, and then restore the historic bridge,” he said in a statement.
NDP MLA Kevin Barr said he was glad the government relented, calling it “a huge testament to the people of Ross River and the determination to protect our shared heritage.”
“It’s important, and finally the government is realizing that,” he said.
– With files from Jacqueline Ronson
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