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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, receive flu shot. Photo via Government of Alberta
COVID cases climb in central zone, Red Deer

The total number of active COVID-19 cases in the province reached 3,138… Continue reading

Many rural municipalities were concerned about a proposed reduction to their industrial revenues, but Alberta’s municipal affairs minister has come up with an alternative solution. (Photo contributed)
Energy industry support won’t injure municipalities

Creating new wells or pipelines would result in a three year ‘tax holiday’

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Premier Jason Kenney participated in a livestream on Oct. 17, 2020. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
UCP members pass resolution at AGM calling for privately funded health care option

EDMONTON — Members of Alberta’s governing United Conservative Party have narrowly endorsed… Continue reading

“We weren’t sure what to expect with just doing the 50/50. We have been positively surprised with sales so far,” says Craig Fleming, co-chair of the Red Deer Kinsmen Club’s raffle. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Non-profits put their money on 50/50 draws

COVID impacts fundraising events

Student taking a math test. (Pixabay photo)
David Marsden: Students need more testing, not less

Testing has been central to Alberta’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s… Continue reading

Gillian Robertson celebrates her win over Sarah Frota during UFC 240, in Edmonton, Saturday, July 27, 2019. Robertson used her superior grappling skills to dominate Brazil's Poliano Botelho en route to a unanimous decision win Saturday night on a UFC Fight Night card. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian Gillian (The Savage) Robertson dominates in UFC decision win in Abu Dhabi

Canadian Gillian (The Savage) Robertson dominates in UFC decision win in Abu Dhabi

Forge FC head coach Bobby Smyrniotis, right, hugs captain Kyle Bekker following their victory in the Canadian Premier League soccer final against Cavalry FC in Calgary, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. A month after winning the Island Games in Charlottetown, Hamilton-based Forge FC is back on the move. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CPL champion Forge FC off to El Salvador for CONCACAF League preliminary-round match

CPL champion Forge FC off to El Salvador for CONCACAF League preliminary-round match

Course workers prepare the landing area at the ski jump venue in Whistler Olympic Park in Whistler, B.C. Friday, Feb. 5, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Next generation of Canadian ski talent sets sights on Whistler, B.C., in 2023

Next generation of Canadian ski talent sets sights on Whistler, B.C., in 2023

Mighty Heart is held by groom Siobhan Brown in his stall at trainer Josie Carroll's stable at Woodbine Racetrack, in Toronto, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. The one eyed horse, will run in the $400,000 Breeders' Stakes on October 24, attempting to become Canada's first horse to win the Triple Crown since Wando in 2003. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Rain could present big challenge in Mighty Heart’s quest to capture Triple Crown

Rain could present big challenge in Mighty Heart’s quest to capture Triple Crown

Veteran sniper Evgenii Dadonov excited to join Senators: ‘It’s a perfect fit’

Veteran sniper Evgenii Dadonov excited to join Senators: ‘It’s a perfect fit’

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II (27) gets pushed out of bund by Green Bay Packers free safety Darnell Savage (26) during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
Packers seek to bounce back after embarrassing defeat

Packers seek to bounce back after embarrassing defeat

World junior hockey championship opens on Christmas Day for first time since 2005

World junior hockey championship opens on Christmas Day for first time since 2005

Most Read