By Greg Price
The Municipal District of Taber’s plea from the province to help with bridge funding within the municipality was raised once again at the organization’s AGM earlier this month at the Heritage Inn.
Mic Friend voiced his concerns during discussion period of the AGM about the M.D. of Taber’s infrastructure deficit.
“Currently, replacing assets is costing more than what the original costs of those assets were. We’ve always been able to rely on some sort of, whether it’s provincial or federal grant funding to address any future capital projects,” said Bryan Badura, director of corporate services in response to Friend’s inquiry.
“One example of that is our two regional water projects we completed here a few years ago. One was a $10 million project that we received 90 per cent funding for, and the other one was an $18 million project in which we had about 86 per cent funding rate for.”
Unfortunately, when it comes to bridge funding, help has been lacking, according to the M.D.
“A lot of our bridges within the BRID were built in the late 1950s to early 1960s. So what we have is a large number of bridges right now that have met the end of their life span. What we are doing is to work with the province to try and secure some funding for that,” said Brian Brewin. “There was a bridge program, the program is still there, it has just been zero funded for the last five years. We are lobbying to try and get more funding for that. But no doubt about it, bridges, roads everything are wearing out and we’re not keeping up with the infrastructure.”
Bridges are considered the responsibility of the province and has been an ongoing challenge for the M.D., according to Brewin.
Municipal administrator Derrick Krizsan noted bridge funding has traditionally been 90 per cent provincial and 10 per cent by the municipality. Currently, the bridge inventory for the M.D. of Taber is just over $100 million for approximately 175 bridges.
“We figure in the next 15 years, we have an infrastructure deficit for just bridges that is nearly $25 million, so 25 major bridges need to be replaced in the next 15 years,” said Krizsan.
“The only way we can do that is grant funding. When you consider our annual budget is about $15 million, it doesn’t take long to see that our ability to replace $100 million in bridges is significant. That’s why we are going to have to pursue grant funding if it’s available. We have to recognize we have to set priorities and get the work done where there is the highest priority in our infrastructure.”
While many bridges in the M.D. of Taber have reached their life span, Krizsan assured residents in an interview with The Times after the AGM that the infrastructure is safe.
“All our heavy permitted loads go through TRAVIS permitting systems. We set up routing for heavy loads, particularly in the oil and gas industry of where they can safely travel heavy loads,” said Krizsan.
“Those routing systems are specifically designed to ensure heavy permitted traffic does not cross bridges that are designed for certain weight limits.”
The M.D. of Taber has two Class ‘B’ bridge inspectors on staff and there is a third in the process of being certified.
“We do a regular system of inspections where we inspect the condition of the decking, inspect the piling for multi-played bridges, but also we do inspections of culvert crossings as well,” said Krizsan.
Krizsan forecasted M.D. of Taber doing $13.5 million in bridge replacement work over the next 10 years and $50 million worth for the next 25 years.
The announcement of the recent provincial budget saw some good news for bridge funding. Local road/bridge funding falls under the Strategic Transportation Infrastructure Grant and beginning in 2017, there will be money put back in the fund after having the program zero-funded for the last five years.
“The M.D. has done some bridge work in the last few years using our M.D. crews due to flooding. We continue to monitor the condition of the bridges,” said Krizsan.