Bridge Cost - various totals

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How much will the Bridge cost? There are a number of answers, depending on how you define "cost". Below is a discussion of (my interpretation of) the cost of the Bridge. You can also check the Bridge Calculator page to find out how much the Bridge will cost in 2012 (its first year of operation), and overall, given various possibilities.

$169 million

Back in 2004, a $55 million construction cost was being used. However, the DCBC was never able to get a construction tender near this price, and the project went into limbo. It was only revived in 2007-2008 when the GNWT agreed to increase the subsidy it would pay. By then, the construction price had risen to around $135 million; this was attributed to major increases in construction materials, etc. for infrastructure projects. To this, there one needed to add around $10 million in development costs (plans, insurance, financing fees, etc), another $10 million in construction and corporate management costs, and another $10 million for a contingency fund. Adding in interest during the construction period on the bonds issued to finance the bridge, and the total came to around $169 million (although often reported as $165 million). The GNWT knew of this cost when it signed the final agreements.

$192 million

Because of the troubles during construction, the construction price went up. The GNWT has put in an additional $16 million dollars in 2010, although some of this went to replacing lost equity. It injected another $10 million in the 2012/2013 capital estimates. The current construction cost is now estimated around $192 million.

$320 million

However, the money to build the bridge was borrowed, and must be repaid with interest over 35 years, much like the mortgage on a house. Because of the type of bonds issued, the actual repayment amount will depend on the inflation rate during that time. However, assuming inflation at 2%, the total repayment will be around $430 million dollars. Before anyone screams "what!", remember that the repayment is being done over time, and a dollar paid 35 years from now isn't worth as much as one now, because of inflation. Adjusted to 2011 dollars, that amount becomes the equivalent of something like $297 million. Adding in the additional funds the GNWT had to contribute makes this around $320 million

$340 million

Of course, the bridge has other costs after construction. Annual costs for collecting tolls, operations and maintenance will probably be around $400,000, and there is the Opportunities Grant of $200,000 per year. Over 35 years those add up to equivalent of $20 million or so, bringing bridge-related outlays over that time to something like $340 million.


The toll revenue the bridge will generate won't be enough to cover these costs. The difference will have to be made up by the GNWT. Toll revenue cannot be determine exactly, as it depends on how much commercial traffic crosses the bridge, which is dependent to so extent on the economy, especially mining activity. For instance, the recent recession has drastically cut the traffic going north on the winter ice road. The annual subsidy required is likely to be in the $3-5 million range. But since the ferry is no longer required, the $3 million annual costs can be subtracted, so the net subsidy might be $1-2 million per year.

The tolls themselves are a cost, to the trucking companies. Some of this they may be offset by savings they may make by having a bridge; the rest will presumably be passed along to their customers. They in turn may save with a bridge; stores won't have to stockpile goods before breakup, airlift supplies, etc. Just what the value of these benefits might be is a slippery question, which the Cost Benefit Analysis tried to determine. Let's generously assume the entire effect to be neutral.

The delays in construction have a negative effect - for instance, the likely loss of a year's worth of tolls and a year's extra ferry costs is around $7 million.

Net cost - $75-100 million?

So, although it may vary substantially if freight volumes are very much better or worse, adding this up you might come up with a number like $340 million or more as the cost of the Bridge, spread out over 35 years. But since we have toll revenue, and the ferry would have cost $105 million over the same period, the net cost of the bridge is somewhere in the range of $75-100 million over those 35 years.

At that point we also have a 35-year old bridge with lots of life left in it, so from then on there are positive savings each year from not having to run the ferry (less the cost of maintaining the bridge), even if the tolls are dropped as planned once the bonds are repaid.