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WHEREAS rural municipalities are key economic drivers of Alberta with their agricultural production, value-added industries and natural resources; and
WHEREAS rural roads, highways and bridges in Alberta must have sufficient capacity and appropriate maintenance to ensure the safe and efficient movement of goods, commodities, natural resources, and people;
WHEREAS the province has substantially scaled back its contribution to road and bridge construction, thereby downloading their responsibilities onto municipalities;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties lobby the Government of Alberta to increase and accelerate funding for rural road and highway construction and maintenance;
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties lobby the Government of Alberta to reinstate funding for the maintenance and reconstruction of local bridges in the 2016 provincial budget, and sustain this funding in future budgets.
Rural municipalities manage approximately 75% of Alberta’s roads, including major resource transportation corridors.
Rural municipalities fund road construction and maintenance with a combination of own-source revenues and multi-use grant programs such as the Municipal Sustainability Initiative. As noted in the AAMDC’s 2013 report Apples to Apples: Rural Municipal Finance in Alberta, these revenue tools have proven inadequate. The net result is a rural road infrastructure deficit of roughly four billion dollars as estimated by the Alberta Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association.
In addition, the Resource Road Program and Local Road Bridge Program have been without funding since 2013, resulting in a significant impact on rural infrastructure/transportation networks. Currently there are approximately 8500 bridges for which rural municipalities have responsibility, and many are at, or are nearing, the end of their lifespan.
Without significant funding, our rural roads, highways and bridges will continue to deteriorate impacting safety and impeding economic growth and diversification throughout the province.
5-14F: Reinstatement of Funding For Resource Roads and Local Bridges in Rural Municipalities
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties lobby the Government of Alberta to reinstate funding for the Resource Road Program and the Local Road Bridge Program in the 2015 provincial budget.
DEVELOPMENTS: According to the government response, Service Alberta is in the process of developing a long-term digital strategy to leverage its initial investment into SuperNet to ensure it supports reliable, competitive, and affordable internet service for rural Albertans.
As the response indicates that a new contract has not been signed with Axia, and that the current agreement as well as the overall role and effectiveness of SuperNet is being reviewed, the AAMDC assigns this resolution a status of Accepted in Principle, pending the completion of the ten-year digital strategy and review of the current SuperNet agreement.
4-13S: Local Road Bridge Program
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties call upon the Government of Alberta to ensure a second round of consultation is held after hearing data from the Committee by going to the region for a vote.
DEVELOPMENTS: The AAMDC deems the government response to be Intent Not Met. Since this resolution was passed in spring 2013, the Local Road Bridge Program became zero-funded in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 provincial budgets. This directly shifts the entire financial burden of bridge maintenance and replacement to municipalities. Support through government funding and reduced bureaucratic process while maintaining needed safety is critical. The AAMDC was pleased to have collaborated with Alberta Transportation on a committee that has produced local road bridge design guidelines and standard design drawings for local road bridges. These guidelines and drawings will assist rural municipalities in constructing low-cost bridges. The AAMDC will monitor the entire bridge issue holistically going forward.
As funding for the Strategic Transportation Infrastructure Program has been renewed in the Government of Alberta’s 2015-16 Capital Plan, the AAMDC anticipates that renewed discussions around how to distribute local road bridge funding will take place in the near future.
3-11F: Alternative Bridge Structures and Eligibility for Funding
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties commission a report to study, outline and evaluate alternate ideas, methods and theories that could address the high cost currently associated with the replacement of bridge structures as currently outlined by the Government of Alberta;
FURTHER IT BE RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties present this report to the Government of Alberta and urge them to change their funding guidelines to include alternative, more affordable options for bridge replacement on rural roads.
DEVELOPMENTS: In 2012 the AAMDC partnered with Alberta Transportation to complete a collaborative review of the Local Road Bridge Program. The committee’s report recommended that alternative bridge standards be developed for low volume road bridges. Since the completion of the report, the Government of Alberta zero-funded the Local Road Bridge Program for 2013-14. With this loss of funding, bridge maintenance and replacements have now become an even larger financial challenge for municipalities.
Funding for the Local Road Bridge Program has continued to be absent from provincial budgets.
Transportation: From 2015/16 to 2019/20, Alberta Transportation’s $9.1-billion Capital Plan will build and repair roads and bridges, fund water/wastewater and transit projects, invest in local municipal transportation infrastructure, and support water management infrastructure across the province. The Government of Alberta is investing $4.7 billion in road and bridge projects, and $2.1 billion in capital maintenance and renewal for roads and bridges over the next five years.
Transportation is investing more than $1.1 billion from 2015/16 to 2017/18 on highway and bridge maintenance and preservation to protect our existing infrastructure and ensure safe highways.
While this budget will see reductions in spending compared to Budget 2014-17 for highway maintenance, Transportation has conducted strategic analyses on where efficiencies can be realized. Activities such as grass cutting, pavement patching and crack sealing services will be impacted. However, stopping these activities will not compromise the safety for drivers in the short term.
In addition, Budget 2015 has allocated a total of $100 million for the Strategic Transportation Infrastructure Program (STIP). Pending Cabinet approval, consultation on program criteria for the renewal of STIP funding will begin in 2016.
Treasury Board and Finance: The Budget 2015 five-year Capital Plan provides $8.4 billion for transportation infrastructure to foster economic growth and generate good paying jobs, which support individuals and families and benefit all Albertans. This includes:
RMA is pleased by the Government of Alberta’s commitment to restore Strategic Transportation Infrastructure Program (STIP) funding in the 2017-18 budget year, as well as their targeted STIP funding for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 budget years. The inclusion of a Local Road Bridge Program and the Resource Road Program sub-components within the STIP meets the intent of request for increased rural road funding in this resolution.
Additionally, the Government of Alberta’s 2017-18 Capital Plan identifies a steady projected increase in annual capital funding for provincial roads and bridges, from $450 million in 2017-18, culminating at $588 million in 2020-21. While this funding is not specifically targeted towards rural roads and highways, it is likely that rural funding will see a proportional increase as well.
The RMA is concerned that funding for STIP has decreased to $26 million for the 2018-19 budget from the $35 million budgeted for 2017-18 and $85 million forecast during this same timeframe. While the decrease in funding from last year is a disappointment, the RMA acknowledges the initial reinstatement of these funds and that their continuation is positive. As such this resolution is assigned a status of Accepted.