The city of Lethbridge is testing the waters on a new bridge, asking voters if they think council should approve plans to construct a third bridge to the west side of the city before 2030.
An estimate from the city puts the cost of the project as high as $200 million, most of which – if not all – would likely have to come from the municipality.
“Currently, the source of capital from provincial and federal governments is drying up,” outgoing mayor Chris Spearman said.
“Given our traffic volumes, we may not be able to attract funding from other orders of government, which would mean that burden will fall on municipal taxpayers.”
That burden would be a municipal tax increase of roughly nine to 11 per cent, according to a city estimate.
“We’re going to have to be very careful in terms of prioritizing our capital projects and we’ll have to focus on continuing to maintain the current assets that we have,” Spearman said.
Estimated annual maintenance costs on the bridge total $190,000 a year, which include street sweeping, snow removal and future overlay costs.
Those in favour of a third river crossing have cited traffic congestion, a growing west side and safety concerns as reasons to begin the project.
The results of the bridge vote are not binding, but will be helpful for the new city council to gauge residents’ thoughts on the project.
According to the latest Lethbridge census from 2019, almost 41,000 residents — or 41 per cent of the entire municipal population — live on the west side of the Oldman River.
Since the population growth data for the west side was first included in 1972, west Lethbridge has continued to lead the areas of the city in population percentage increase.