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Does the county have a bridge crisis?

Posted on October 22, 2014 by Sunny South News

Parts of bridges in Lethbridge County are failing and that’s bad news for the county.

According to Lethbridge County Director of Municipal Services Kevin Viergutz, a number of bridges in the county were built between 1960 and 1975. Viergutz was on a road tour of the county recently and submitted a report to county council at a meeting held Oct. 2. In June, level one inspections were completed and concerns were identified on 10 bridges, according to the report submitted to council. More bridges are in need of inspection and three of the bridges have been restricted to single-lane traffic.

From a report regarding bridges in the county, Viergutz said, some interesting questions were asked recently. Does Lethbridge County really have a bridge crisis? How can the county deal with it? What funding is available and how can the county access it? Is the crossing warranted or can it be eliminated? What standards can the county afford? Is a reduced speed across the bridges acceptable? Is restricted bridge loading acceptable?

“We do have a serious situation,” noted Viergutz.

According to numbers, there are 166 bridges on file worth $10.2 million dollars. The estimated replacement cost for those bridges is $51.6 million dollars. Out of the 166 bridges, 35 are within their 10-year useful life, 21 out of those 35 are within four years of useful life and 11 out of 35 are within one-year of useful life. To replace those 35 bridges it would be an estimated cost of about $6 million dollars. The estimated cost to replace those within 3-years life or less is close to $2.6 million dollars. These estimates are based on 2007 figures for replacement costs. “Everybody in the province is in the exact same boat and most of North America is in the same situation because nobody has ever funded the future replacement of infrastructure properly. We’re always in a catch-22 situation, when these things start to fail,” said Viergutz, adding there are a few short-term options.

The municipal services department’s recommendation at this point is looking at proceeding with repairs on bridges with a repair cost of less than $50,000.

“That will buy us some time.”

Council passed the recommendations to repair the bridges that have estimates for repairs less than $50,000, install a temporary bridge on BF 79599 RGE RD 20-3 immediately north of TWP RD 10-2 (Uytdewilligen), install a temporary bridge on BF 79607 TWP RD 9-4 east of RGE RD 20-5 and schedule a workshop to develop a bridge strategy, as soon as possible.

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