Lacombe County is hopeful its appeal for more provincial funding to maintain decades-old bridges has found an ear in Edmonton.
Reeve Terry Engen said Transportation Minister Luke Ouellette seemed to recognize that there is an issue that needs to be addressed when county officials spoke with him in Edmonton last month at the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties spring conference.
“I think that’s the first recognition by a minister in a long time that they know there’s a problem with these 50- or 60-year-old bridges,” said Engen.
The need for more bridge funding has been an ongoing issue in the county.
Last year, the county reluctantly agreed to spend $72,000 to repair a bridge on the western edge of the county after Alberta Transportation asked the municipality to choose between two projects. Rather than risk the second bridge not be repaired, the county dug into its own budget.
Engen said the money is needed soon. “We’ve got a few (bridges) where we know the life expectancy of these are maxed out.”
A 2008 county report says 75 per cent of the county’s 150 bridges were built in the 1950s and 1960s and are due, or almost due, for replacement.
Lacombe County co-sponsored a resolution at the conference calling on the province to add funding to its $25 million Local Road Bridge Program.
It was pointed out that there are many shovel-ready projects across Alberta and both the provincial and federal governments have pledged to boost infrastructure spending.
Engen said the bridge program needs to be boosted to $35 million a year just to maintain the existing inventory of local bridges.
Alberta Transportation spokesman Jerry Bellikka said whether new money will be available for the department won’t be known until the provincial budget is delivered next week.
The minister is well aware of the infrastructure issues facing Alberta’s communities, he said. “I know he’s met with a number of municipalities who have raised concerns about the same kinds of issues.”
Transportation has stepped up infrastructure maintenance, such as the road rehabilitation and repair program.
Two years ago, about 350 km of provincial roadways were fixed up. Last year, 1,200 km were upgraded.