Provincial budget cuts funding for rural bridges
Foothills: MD forced to review three-year project list
By: Don Patterson
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013 06:00 am
The MD of Foothills may need to postpone plans to replace aging bridges and culverts in the region due to cuts in the provincial budget unveiled earlier this month.
The Province eliminated funding for the local road bridge program as one of many cuts in the budget, which was unveiled on March 7. The province-wide program is intended to help municipalities with the cost to replace bridges over streams and creeks on rural roads. The bridge program was part of the larger Strategic Infrastructure program (STIP), which is also unfunded this year. Funding for the STIP program ranged between $60 to $120 million depending on the year and the number of projects it was funding.
The MD relied on the program to cover 75 per cent of the cost of bridge projects.
Hugh Pettigrew, MD deputy director of Public Works, said the municipality will now have to take a second look at its plans now as a result of the program being cut.
“At this point all I’m going to say is we’re not fixing any bridges because that funding is gone, so we’re going to have to re-evaluate which ones are going to become a priority,” he said.
The MD put together a list of bridge and culvert replacement projects it was hoping to do over the next three years. Pettigrew said the MD had hoped to co-ordinate the work with the Province.
The MD will now review the list to see if any bridges or culverts need to be completed for safety reasons and which ones can wait. If the MD identifies any bridge projects that need to go ahead, he said they will look for other sources of funding to help cover the cost.
Pettigrew said the MD has completed all bridge projects it had underway and the cancellation of the program won’t leave it scrounging to find money to finish any specific projects.
MD manager Harry Riva Cambrin said the amount the MD received from the program varies widely from year-to-year.
“It’s very up and down depending on what projects proceed or not,” he said.
He said the MD will also need to take a look at how it builds bridges to bring costs down.
According to Riva Cambrin, said the MD may end up having to build some new bridges out of wood or with large culverts, rather than with concrete or other more expensive materials.
“If we’re going to bring the costs down for these bridges, then we’re going to have to develop our own set of standards for them,” said Riva Cambrin.
He said many small bridges in the MD are made out of wood and have lasted for decades.
MD Coun. Barb Castell said safety is important and the MD will replace any bridges as needed. Four bridges on the MD’s list are in her division of the MD.
“Some of those little bridges are due to be replaced and if the (bridge) program is off the budget, we’re going to have to pick it up,” she said.
Alberta Transportation spokesperson Nancy Beasley Hosker said the program hasn’t been eliminated, but there are no funds for it in this year’s budget. She couldn’t speculate on whether it would be funded in future years.
She said there are still other options for rural municipalities to pay for bridge projects.
“Municipalities continue to have access to both the basic municipal transportation grant and the Municipal Sustainability Initiative to help support local transportation,” she said.