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Bridges continue to be focus of M.D. council

Posted on August 12, 2014 by Taber Times

Roads and bridges will be a big topic of discussion for the next few years in the Municipal District of Taber.

That was the message from council’s regular meeting on July 22 following a discussion on the 2015 capital works and 2015 to 2017 capital works plan.

M.D. Reeve Brian Brewin said capital planning is an important way for local government to stay organized when it comes to all of the work that goes on.

“It’s just more efficient,” he said. “Better bang for the dollar.”

Of particular interest to the M.D. in any capital planning document are the state of roads and bridges within the M.D., as repairing them can incur significant costs.

Municipal Administrator Derrick Krizsan said roads and bridges operate in a 25-to-30-year life cycle, and in any given year there is more work to be done.

“The significant budget items in the future will be some of these paved road overlays as part of their lifecycle. They will have to be (dealt with) or we may have to face costlier alternatives in the future,” said Krizsan. “That number, when you look at it in terms of overall costs, is north of the $25 million range.”

Krizsan went on to say another significant budget item will be bridges in the area. Over the next decade, the M.D. has a budget forecast of $15 million for road bridge rehab.

“The M.D. manages road bridges that are valued at over $100 million,” said Krizsan. “Over the next 25 years we’re looking at a $50 million price tag to replace local road bridges. Many of these are located over local irrigation infrastructure.”

The bridge issue is compounded by the fact there has been no funding from the provincial government for bridge work for several years, leaving the M.D. alone to deal with the issue.

“The strategic transportation infrastructure grant that funded road bridge replacement has been defunded for the past two years, this is a significant issue for the municipality,” said Krizsan.

“Our concern is that we live in irrigation country, and we have bridges in lots of places every mile,” said Brewin.

“The trucks, equipment, and everything else is getting heavier, and these bridges were designed and built in the mid-50s in a lot of cases. Not only are they older, but they were never really designed to take the kind of loads that we’re seeing now.”

“Our role, our job is really roads and bridges, and making sure they’re in good shape,” Brewin said.

“(There is) a lot of uncertainty right now working with the province, where bridge funding is, and resource road projects, that sort of stuff, and that’s a huge part of our budget that’s tough to plan for.

“I guess you hope for the best but prepare for the worst.”

For now, Brewin and Krizsan are hoping the defunding of the bridge work grant is only a temporary setback.

“At this point we’re still hoping that the province will step up with some funding within the next budget,” Brewin said. “I guess if that doesn’t start up pretty quick, though, we’re going to have to start looking at alternative ways.”

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