In 2009, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo discovered that the Fort MacKay bridge, a 106.8-metre structure built in 1966 had reached the end of its life. When we were called in, we considered two options: replace the bridge using the same alignment or replace it using a new one.
Working with the Fort McKay community and including their desires in the new road and bridge alignment, we chose the latter option for three reasons: to ensure the roadway could remain open during the construction of the new bridge, to lessen the impact on the local environment, and to widen the bridge to meet Alberta Transportation requirements. And when, during construction, we encountered larger pockets of rich oil sands then revealed in the geotechnical reports we modified the design to accommodate the oil sand storage. Because of this highly-sensitive area – both environmentally and culturally – the teams conducted fish habitat, historic resources, and terrestrial assessments.
The new, 14-metre wide, 131-metre long, three-span structure carries two lanes and a pedestrian sidewalk over the MacKay River and features a 65-metre steel center span overlooking the Fort McKay community’s historic boat launch. Nearly seven decades earlier, the chief’s daughter officially opened the original bridge; and on September 22, 2014, her great-great-granddaughter cut the ribbon – demonstrating the significance this structure has to the community. To celebrate, all stakeholders were invited for the official grand opening on the new Fort MacKay Bridge, and the project was deemed a success.