Hundreds of interested residents took in the grand opening of the new North Bridge, which is now open for traffic and pedestrians.
With the opening held Monday, Aug. 8, the weather held strong to allow town planners to recognize the past 100 years of the old bridge and to look forward to the next 100, which is how long this new bridge is expected to last.
“This new bridge will be a vital part of the town’s infrastructure, just as the old bridge was for more than 100 years,” said Mayor Rick Bonnett to the hundreds of attendees.
He added that the new bridge is essential for smooth traffic flow as was clear during the the time the bridge was closed. Alberta Transportation had a helping hand in ensuring residents were safe by allowing the three-way stop on Highway 53 and 50 Street, explained Bonnett, and he thanked the ministry for its help.
This new bridge has also been a long time coming and Bonnett said the federal government’s decision to loosen rules on bridges over certain navigable waterways made it affordable to build it. Prior to the change, Oceans and Fisheries required more stringent bridge construction guidelines for navigable waterways, Battle River being one of them. This meant the costs would be much higher.
“I want future generations of council to be reminded that this bridge is strictly a Ponoka built bridge. There are no federal or provincial dollars allocated,” said Bonnett.
He thanked the contractors — Volker Stevin, Lex3 Engineering, Tagish Engineering, Eagle Builders, Inline Contracting, Place-Crete and Border Paving — for their dedication to the bridge construction and for sponsoring the barbecue.
CAO Albert Flootman was pleased with the large turnout and said this bridge, which comes with two wide lanes and a wide sidewalk, is integral to the town’s infrastructure and future growth. “It will be able to handle a lot more traffic than you’ll see on it in the next few years. It is a strategic investment in that regard as well.”
“It’s not something that will have to be replaced in the next 20 or 30 years,” he added.
This new bridge will be able to handle large trucks as well as emergency vehicles such as fire trucks and EMS.
Looking at the past
Helping with the grand opening was Frank Mickey who remembers being on the bridge as a young kid with friend Ilona Carter. “I’d like to pay tribute to the grand old green bridge that has served us for the last 108 years.”
“It was a busy, busy bridge years ago when we had all the grain elevators and stock yards.”
Located right along the railway line it was an ideal location for many people at the time.
Sandy Allsopp, the Fort Ostell Museum curator, said it wasn’t long after Ponoka was incorporated as a town in 1904 that the bridge was built. In November 1907 the town council at the time petitioned the provincial government for funds to build a bridge on the north end of town, explained Allsopp.
Bridge steel arrived in 1908 and road preparation began the summer of that same year, which aligned the roadway to the bridge and the bottom of Chicken Hill (50 Avenue).
“On Aug. 12, 1909 the bridge was ready and on Aug. 8, 2016, 107 years later, the old bridge is now part of history,” said Allsopp.
The bridge also became a trade route for farmers and to the Alberta Hospital. Allsopp said the museum has many in depth articles and history of the bridge.
For the ribbon cutting Bonnett, along with Councillors Loanna Gulka, Sandra Lyon and Marc Yaworski, Mickey and his granddaughter Jenna Abt and Ilona Carter cut the ribbon with a barbecue lunch and walk along the bridge afterwords.