County urged to proceed with upgrades to bridges

Despite the absence of provincial funding to upgrade bridges on rural roads

Despite the absence of provincial funding to upgrade bridges on rural roads, the County of Stettler has been told to continue plans for work in the long-term future.

“You need to optimize money you are spending,” said Donald Saunders, central regional bridge manager for Alberta Transportation, as he spoke to council at its April meeting.

“We are looking at ways to honour existing commitments.”

The county plans to proceed to complete emergency repairs to the Donalda bridge about one mile north of the village on Range Road 18-5.

“That bridge is urgent,” said Rick Green, the director of engineering for the county.

“Go ahead and do it,” Saunders said.

After the provincial government ditched funding to fi x many aging bridges on rural roads in the defi cit provincial budget in March , the County of Stettler — with 118 bridges — must come up with almost $34 million to upgrade or replace them over the next several years.

Saunders said the government might consider a return of funding in three years.

“We really don’t know when and if funding will return for rural bridges.”

While that’s part of the provincial government’s plan to review all funding programs, Saunders said Alberta Transportation is reviewing the bridge program with the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties.

The program is vital to rural municipalities, he said, “and it’s important to have provincial standards.”

He further urged the county to continue to complete the inspections and engineering on the county’s bridges.

“Do minimal maintenance to keep the bridges safe,” Saunders said.

“The county faces liability of bridges that are not up to standard.”

During discussion, he said money isn’t transferrable from one project to another.

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