More money needed for bridges – Big Lakes County

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Big Lakes County is calling on the provincial government to enhance funding for local road bridges in rural municipalities.
At its regular meeting Feb. 22, council approved an updated briefing document to lobby Transportation and Economic Corridors Minister Devin Dreeshen.
Big Lakes “recommends that Alberta Transportation and Economic Corridors provide permanent, sustainable funding for maintenance and reconstruction of standard local and major bridges in the 2023 budget”, the document says.
“These expensive and critical structures are an excessive and disproportionate burden on rural municipalities.”
The provincial budget was scheduled to be presented Feb. 28.
The new briefing note identifies Big Lakes’ funding shortfalls for such projects, says Kevin Cymbaluk, director of public works.
“Costs and conditions of infrastructure has a major impact on our organization,” Cymbaluk says.
“Access to provincial grants, programs and support for improving provincial and municipal infrastructure is vital to our county and community.”
He says the gap in funding bridges is a major concern across the province and says its vital that municipalities and the government become stronger partners.
“It’s a widespread issue for many municipalities,” says Cymbaluk.
“It’s important that we work co-operatively with the government on these projects.”
He says Dreeshen is well aware of the frustrations that municipalities face.
“He’s getting the same request from rural and urban municipalities all over the province,” Cymbaluk says.
The briefing highlights several challenges for the county.
-Big Lakes has 99 bridges or bridge-sized culverts, the document states.
-A conservative replacement value of the structures is estimated at $100 million.
The county has nine major bridges; conservative estimates suggest an approximate value of $28 million.
“These will have extremely high replacement costs but we have not yet had detailed assessments completed,” Cymbaluk says.
“They will range in cost from $5-$10 million.”
To have sufficient funding on a 40-year replacement schedule, two or three standard structures would need to be replaced each year, Cymbaluk says.
The average cost of the projects in 2023 dollars is estimated at $1.5-$2 million.
He notes that rural Alberta is responsible for 61 per cent of all bridges and culverts in the province.

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