FORT NELSON -- The federal government has provided an update on the Sikanni Chief Bridge. It was damaged after a fuel tanker truck overturned and caught fire in late August.

Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) said the immediate priority is to complete assessments and analysis of the bridge and any temporary repairs necessary to reopen the bridge for all public and commercial traffic as quickly as possible.

The bridge is located near kilometre 256 of the Alaska Highway. It suffered severe damage from the fire, with three out of five spans affected.

Currently, trucks and vehicles up to gross vehicle weight of 15,500 kg can safely cross the bridge. Heavy trucks and vehicles over 15,500 kg GVW need to detour via Highway 37 or highwa 77, which can be a 12-20 hour detour.

Maintenance crews with flaggers and signages are still in place to inform travellers of the bridge load limits and detour.

Structural assessments, including detailed inspections, material and load testing have been ongoing. At the same time, instrumentation has been installed on the bridge to collect data in support of load testing results.

Concrete and steel samples are still under analysis for potentially increasing the load capacity of the bridge. Early results obtained from testing have been positive; however, the testing and analysis needs to be completed before a decision on increasing the load limits can be supported.

PSPC expects to have a recommended option for a temporary mechanism soon. More details will be made available as the final design is completed and a construction schedule is fully developed.