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Lethbridge election: ‘Burden will fall on taxpayers’ when it comes to 3rd bridge

Click to play video: 'Lethbridge election: ‘Burden will fall on taxpayers’ when it comes to 3rd bridge' Lethbridge election: ‘Burden will fall on taxpayers’ when it comes to 3rd bridge
The need for a third bridge in Lethbridge is being put to voters on Monday. Residents will be asked whether they think the city should prioritize a third river crossing, but as Erik Bay explains the result of that vote could come with a high cost – Oct 14, 2021

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.

Read more: Lethbridge residents to provide input on potential 3rd bridge in October’s city election

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.”

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That burden would be a municipal tax increase of roughly nine to 11 per cent, according to a city estimate.

Click to play video: 'Decision Lethbridge 2021: ‘No easy answer’ to city’s social issues for future council' Decision Lethbridge 2021: ‘No easy answer’ to city’s social issues for future council
Decision Lethbridge 2021: ‘No easy answer’ to city’s social issues for future council – Oct 12, 2021

“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.

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Read more: Decision Lethbridge 2021: Municipal election an opportunity for a more diverse city council

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.

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