Let’s not neglect Alberta’s roads

Let’s not neglect Alberta’s roads

How would you feel if you read a notice in the elevator you were taking to the 30th floor that said 43 per cent of the cable carrying you was in fair to poor condition?

Or the pilot announced that 43 per cent of the plane’s wings and fuselage was in fair to poor condition? You would be forgiven for feeling outrage and concern about your safety being placed at risk.

Thankfully, governments are good at regulating the maintenance of those transportation providers, ensuring they are in excellent condition, and both elevators and planes have exceptional safety records.

So if it’s not acceptable for elevators and planes, why would you accept a similar risk with Alberta’s road infrastructure?

Well, there’s bad news on that front. A recent report from Statistics Canada confirms that 43 per cent of Alberta’s highways are in fair, poor or very poor condition. This means right now in our province, there are more than 13,500 kilometres of roads requiring some rehabilitation or reconstruction.

As road quality deteriorates, annual structural maintenance costs skyrocket. For example, instead of paying $3,000 per kilometre for general upkeep, the outlay for road rehabilitation can be anywhere between $163,000 and $248,000 per kilometre. And when the road is beyond repair, total reconstruction can cost as much as $850,000 per kilometre.

These expenses simply aren’t practical. Alberta’s transportation infrastructure debt was estimated to be nearly $6 billion in 2014, and that figure will only continue to grow if we fail to take action.

Unfortunately, at a time when we should be investing in our roads, the province has reduced its commitment to planned and needed investment to maintain and renew roads and bridges by 29 per cent.

Without adequate resources, it’s impossible to maintain our existing investment or to keep pace with the needs of our growing population.

While other jurisdictions are exploring alternate management approaches and more sustainable funding models, Alberta remains locked into the status quo.

Given the state of Alberta’s provincial finances, the current model of management will lead to infrastructure cuts, as was necessary in the 1990s. However, this time, the road system is in worse condition and can’t absorb years of cuts.

This time, we have to earn our way out of the financial pickle we’re in. Fiscal restraint doesn’t have to mean cutting service if we support our political leaders when they are brave and experiment with new asset management models.

Whether it’s a main artery, bridge or culvert, transportation infrastructure investments underpin our economy’s ability to grow and function. In 2017, more than $8 billion worth of product exports travelled on our highways and roads toward their final destination.

For landlocked provinces such as Alberta, infrastructure renewal and innovation is key, because other viable options simply don’t exist. Now, more than ever, Alberta needs a better model; an improved priority-setting system; a renewed commitment to invest; and an enhanced partnership with the public and private sector to build and manage our transportation system.

The Alberta Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association wants to bring stakeholders together. We think it is time to discuss the missing strategic funding connections that are hampering our progress.

We can no longer afford to sit idle. This problem is one that requires our collective attention right now. We all need to care. But possibly most importantly, we need someone who can take the wheel and ensure that our next smooth, great flowing section of economic productivity isn’t too far down the road.

Ron Glen is CEO of the Alberta Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association.

Just Posted

Alberta has made a more detailed framework for those looking to acquire an exemption to the mandatory indoor mask bylaw. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
Alberta changes requirements for mask exemptions

Masks wearing has been recommended for almost a year and provincially mandated… Continue reading

Alberta’a chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Thursday that there are more than 328,000 vaccine appointments booked over the next seven days. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta surpasses 2 million doses administered of COVID-19 vaccine

Red Deer down to 835 active cases of COVID-19

RCMP file photo (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)
RCMP investigating shooting near Maskwacis

Maskwacis and Wetaskiwin RCMP are seeking public assistance after a shooting has… Continue reading

Rode
Smith among impressive group of RDC soccer Queens recruits

There have been a number of cases where younger girls have developed… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools is projecting a $4-million budget deficit for 2021-22 school year. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Red Deer Public Schools prepares $124-million budget

$1 million COVID recovery plan to assist students

Bo’s Bar and Grill owner Brennen Wowk said the hospitality industry is looking for more clarity from the province around what conditions must be met to allow for restaurants reopening. (Advocate file photo)
Frustated restaurant owners want to know government’s reopening plan

Restaurant owners feel they are in lockdown limbo

Vancouver Canucks' Nils Hoglander, right, is checked by Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom during third-period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Thursday, May 13, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Lindholm, Tkachuk lead Calgary Flames in 4-1 win over Vancouver Canucks

Lindholm, Tkachuk lead Calgary Flames in 4-1 win over Vancouver Canucks

Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine, right, drives to the basket against Toronto Raptors center Khem Birch, left, and guard Jalen Harris during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
LaVine, Markkanen lead Bulls past Raptors, 114-102

LaVine, Markkanen lead Bulls past Raptors, 114-102

NFL schedules get off to strong starts with Week 1 twinbills

NFL schedules get off to strong starts with Week 1 twinbills

The Saddledome, home of the Calgary Flames, is shown in Calgary, Thursday, March 12, 2020. The final three games of Canada's Secret Cup women's hockey tournament will be played in Calgary's NHL arena.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Secret Cup women’s tournament final games to be held in Calgary’s Saddledome

Secret Cup women’s tournament final games to be held in Calgary’s Saddledome

FILE - In this Thursday, July 18, 2019 file photo, Ron Francis talks to reporters in Seattle after he was introduced as the first general manager for Seattle's yet-to-be-named NHL hockey expansion team. Four years since George McPhee was a “puppet master” of the NHL leading up to the Vegas expansion draft, general managers approached this trade deadline with Seattle’s upcoming addition to the league in mind. While Kraken GM Ron Francis prepares – and maybe made a handshake deal or two already like McPhee did – Seattle was on his colleagues’ minds.(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Kraken still plan to hire coach before expansion draft

Kraken still plan to hire coach before expansion draft

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney attends a news conference in Calgary on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Simmering internal discontent in his United Conservative caucus has boiled over into an open challenge to his leadership. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Two Alberta UCP members kicked out of caucus after challenging Kenney’s leadership

Two Alberta UCP members kicked out of caucus after challenging Kenney’s leadership

Toronto Blue Jays' Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (13) celebrates in the outfield at the end of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves Thursday, May 13, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Bichette, Blue Jays rally again to beat Braves 8-4

Bichette, Blue Jays rally again to beat Braves 8-4

FILE - Jordan Spieth waits his turn to putt during the third round of the Valero Texas Open golf tournament in San Antonio, in this Saturday, April 3, 2021, file photo. Spieth will try to complete the career Grand Slam next week at the PGA Championship. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas, File)
Momentum for McIlroy, few others going into PGA Championship

Momentum for McIlroy, few others going into PGA Championship

Most Read