Big Lakes County hears they are lagging behind in replacing bridges

Richard Froese
South Peace News

A consultant’s report finds that Big Lakes County is lagging in its program to replace aging bridges.

At its regular meeting April 10, council approved a motion to direct administration to prepare a 20-year replacement plan for bridges.

Reeve Tyler Airth suggested the County draft a long-term plan.

“We should be able to have a plan beyond 10 years, maybe 25 years,” Airth said.

“We should look at replacing four or five bridges a year.”

Council reviewed a final report on the level of service for bridge and culvert assessment and maintenance as requested by council last year.

The report was presented by senior engineer Ian Cosh of RI Engineering and Environmental.

“The replacement of bridges is falling behind which will present future difficulties in managing this asset type,” states the conclusion in the report.

“While repairs are adequately maintaining the condition of the bridges, replacements are falling behind.”

Big Lakes maintains 99 bridges, which are part of the core service, being the transportation network, the report states.

Cosh recommends the county maintain a multi-year bridge replacement program which proactively and strategically plans to replace bridges.

The County has a five-year plan, which includes research that documents history and conditions of the bridges, said Kevin Cymbaluk, director of operations.

“Many of the bridges are coming to the end of the their life,” Cymbaluk added.

About nine bridges need to be replaced within 10 years.

“We’re trying to extend their life,” Cymbaluk said.

However, funding from the provincial Strategic Transportation Infrastructure Program (STIP) for replacements is in high demand, he added.

“The province is backed up with requests for funding such as STIP.”

North Gilwood – Triangle Councillor Jim Zabolotniuk said that provincial funding to replace bridges could be reduced as revenue from oil and gas will diminish in the coming years.

“How will we be able to replace them?” Zabolotniuk asked.

He suggested the County put more money into reserves to replace bridges.

Airth recommended council could close many bridges on roads that lead to a dead end or have very little traffic and an alternative route is nearby.

Cosh suggested the contribution to reserves would be sufficient to fund projects when they are needed.

During a replacement, the structure type of bridge is generally selected based on the most economical solution to address the constraints of the site as indicated by an assessment or preliminary engineering report.

Their inspections are completed by trained and certified bridge inspectors.

Reports from those inspectors identify maintenance requirements which are acted on according to their urgency.

Maintenance is an operating function, while rehabilitation and replacement are capital projects.

The level of service provided is similar to that in neighbouring municipalities.

“Assessments are an important activity in the management of bridges,” the report states.

This mature asset information system with the province allows the county to make and document decisions regarding potential alternatives to the management of each structure that can be compared to other structures in the system

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