St. Albert city council has voted to spend $1.3 million to replace the bridge on Range Road 255, the newly annexed land from Sturgeon County, that has been closed to traffic since November.
The bridge is located just south of the intersection of Highway 37 and Range Road 255, which is the northbound continuation of Hogan Road. This area became the city's responsibility as part of a land annexation, and was officially amalgamated into city limits on Jan. 1, 2022.
During a meeting on March 7, council heard the $1.3 million figure includes a 10 per cent contingency, and is being taken from the city's capital reserve.
Council's decision to replace the bridge follows a city inspection back in September that found significant structural damage, which led to a partial closure and an imposed weight limit.
During a follow-up inspection in October, city staff observed a 23-tonne water truck drive over the bridge, despite the weight limit of just three tonnes. The October inspection led the city to close the bridge entirely.
In November, city engineers presented council with three replacement options, including partial repair, the installation of a culvert, or a full replacement, and council approved $104,000 for the design of a full replacement.
Although she voted in favour of the replacement, Coun. Sheena Hughes told The Gazette that the bridge presented a unique challenge.
“One of the real challenges is this area has not been developed... we don't have anything planned and yet we're putting a bridge down as if we are confident that the road alignment will be there in the future,” she said. “Putting $1.3 million into a bridge on a road that is not heavily utilized by the majority of people, and in an area that we are not confident about where the road layouts will be in 10 to 20 years when this is developed, (is a difficult decision).”
In response to a question from Coun. Mike Killick during the March 7 discussion, city engineer Faizal Kanji said the design of the new bridge accounts for future expansion needs.
Council also heard that between 2019 and 2022 there was a daily traffic volume of between 700 and 1,000.
“The second concern I have is that even though we are continuing with the other projects, this is $1.3 million towards a bridge at the expense of other things in the future,” Hughes said, referencing how city staff had said during the November discussion that the Range Road 255 bridge replacement may require the postponement of other bridge maintenance projects, such as the Children's Bridge downtown.
A council backgrounder prepared for the March 7 meeting by Kanji states staff determined postponing other maintenance projects in order to reduce cost of the Range Road 255 bridge replacement carried substantial risk.
“Administration has evaluated the alternatives to defer any existing prioritized candidates under the bridge program and determined that the risk may be too high for recommendation of deferral,” Kanji wrote.
Coun. Wes Brodhead told The Gazette he had no concerns about the replacing the bridge as it's something the city must do, however he thinks the city may have to consider options to monitor the weight limit of the bridge to ensure the new bridge doesn't wear down quicker than it should.
“My understanding is the bridge in place was destroyed before its due date, so to speak, simply because overweight vehicles are pounding across it all the time without any regard for the strength of the bridge,” Brodhead said.
“If that just continues, we can't be replacing these all the time without some consequence to those who are abusing (the road).”
In response to Brodhead's concern during the March 7 discussion, Kanji explained that the new bridge is being built to standards set by the provincial government, and will be able handle repeated use by agricultural vehicles, such as water trucks.
Council heard on March 7 that construction is expected to begin in April, and the bridge should be replaced and re-opened before August.
The bridge replacement passed with only Coun. Shelley Biermanski opposed.