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WHEREAS Alberta continues to experience tremendous growth and a robust economy which requires significant, predictable and sustainable infrastructure funding for municipalities; and WHEREAS the total estimated value of bridge structures that are located on municipal roads is estimated at $3.5 billion; and WHEREAS the GAP-01 Funding Guidelines for Municipal Bridge Structures were created in 1991 to assist municipalities in the ongoing maintenance, upgrading and replacement of local road bridge structures; and WHEREAS the current level of funding for this program has not been meeting demands in many jurisdictions especially with inflation and cost escalation in Alberta; and WHEREAS many of the bridge structures in use today were constructed in the 1950s and 1960s and are nearing or have exceeded their 60-year life expectancy; and WHEREAS these critical structures pose a serious safety concern and public liability if not replaced in an appropriate time frame, especially in the case of catastrophic failures; and WHEREAS the annual contribution required to replace the existing 9,500 local structures based on the estimated remaining life of bridge structures is estimated at $60 million; and WHEREAS the current level of funding of $22 million is inadequate to meet the basic needs of municipalities;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the Government of Alberta to increase the level of funding for the replacement of bridges on municipal roads to a level that reflects the needs of the community, agricultural sector and local industry; and FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the existing Guidelines and Procedures (GAP-01) for Municipal Bridge Structure Funding be increased substantially from the present level of $22 million per year to address this growing infrastructure deficit.
The Guidelines and Procedures (GAP-01) Funding for Municipal Bridge Structures were developed in 1991 to financially compensate for the work previously done by the Provincial Bridge Department. They were reviewed and revised in 1994 and 1998 with input from the AAMDC. A resolution was submitted by Lacombe County in 2003 on this same subject and some program adjustments were made. It was suggested at that time that $27 million was required to deal with replacement and upgrading costs.In 2007 the Provincial GAP-01 Funding Program has a total budget of approximately $22 million. Of this amount $9 million is allocated to projects "under" $300,000 and $13 million for projects "over" $300,000.GAP-01 money is intended to be distributed on a priority basis. The Peace Region has approximately 15% of the total bridges in the Province and in 2007 received $1.85 million for projects under $300,000 and $8.5 million for projects over $300,000. Total received in 2007 in the Region was $10.35 million out of a total of $22 million or 47%. Assuming a total value of $3.5 billion dollars and an average of a 60 year structure life about $58 million dollars a year should be spent on replacing local road bridge structures to maintain the existing network. Fifteen percent of this amount would be nearly $9 million for the Peace Region on an ongoing, consistent basis. In past years, allocations were much less than this and other regions experience similar dramatic fluctuations and regional disparity. The "over" $300,000 project amount is highly variable and "project specific" and seems to contribute to this unbalanced funding. Budget procedures that shift money between the four AIT regions to this extent do not appear to adequately deal with basic, stable, consistent funding requirements.Annual funding allocations vary significantly depending upon the Bridge Inspection Maintenance (BIM) program priority ratings, provincial budgets and government policy. It is well known that many municipalities are facing infrastructure challenges in their bridge programs and so the BIM ratings are established in order of priority by AIT as:1) Safety and Emergency Issues2) Rehabilitation and Maintenance of Existing Structures3) New StructuresSome areas such as Northern Alberta have a much greater demand for new structures since their infrastructure has not been fully developed. This means that they may be in a position of funding new projects without any GAP-01 assistance.It should be noted that there may be a case for some degree of rationalization of existing low-use remote structures and this could potentially assist in the overall budgeting and GAP-01 funding process.AIT has stated that Bridge Structures on average have a life expectancy of 60 years. The Peace Region has 1,500 local GAP-01 funded structures. Based on the 60 year lifespan this means that at least 25 bridge structure replacements should be done in the region each year. Historically between 12-18 bridge replacements and 15-20 bridge repair projects have been completed. As previously noted, cost escalation and large scale projects continue to impact budget projections. A comprehensive, stable bridge replacement initiative and enhanced funding strategy should be established to deal with this critical infrastructure need.
The AAMDC has no current resolutions pertaining to this issue. However, in May 2006, the AAMDC released Rural Transportation Funding Options Report. This reviewed infrastructure grant funding for municipalities, including the Local Bridge Program. It was found that based on an average life span of 75 years, bridges were at an average of 46 per cent of life expectancy. This report identified the total annual funding need in order to bring the rural municipal bridge structures up to an acceptable standard. The report also considered an escalation factor to address rising costs. AAMDC continues to advocate for increased funding for all infrastructure including bridges.
The AAMDC met with executive team members from Alberta Transportation to determine the best course of action in advocating this resolution. There has been increased funding to muncipalities for all types of infrastructure over the past years with the introduciton of MSI, the Gas Tax Fund as well as the Building Canada Fund. However, this does not compensate for a dedicated revenue stream specifically for bridges. AAMDC continues to advocate for increased funding for all infrastructure including bridges. Recently, the government undertook an exercise for the re-engineering of municipal grant programs. The Local Bridge Program is now a part of the Strategic Transportation Infrastructure Program, along with the Resource Road Program and the Community Airport Program. Now that higher policy level decisions have been made, it is expected that GAP funding guidelines will be up for review as well. The AAMDC will monitor this issue closely over coming months.