A recently closed bridge in St. Albert's newly annexed lands will be replaced after council approved funds for the job.
St. Albert city council has unanimously approved the necessary cash design a replacement of the recently closed bridge on Range Road 255, which is included in St. Albert's boundary after the 2021 Sturgeon County annexation.
During the Nov. 7 meeting, council was presented three options for the bridge which was closed completely on Oct. 11 due to severe deterioration and weight capacity limits not being adhered too.
The option council approved is to replace the current structure with a standard bridge, similar to those in place other parts of the city such as on Ray Gibbon Drive. A standard bridge, council heard, will have a lifespan of 75 years and come at an estimated cost of $1.21 million.
Council has not approved construction costs quite yet, as administration will return to council after the design is completed sometime in the first half of 2023 with a more precise cost for the new bridge. During the Nov. 8 meeting, Dawny George, the director of engineering for the city, told council that the $1.21 million estimate had plus or minus 20 per cent accuracy, as inflation was not factored into the estimate.
The costs for other capital projects included in the 2023 proposed budget have been adjusted five per cent for inflation, George told council, adding that the city will have a better idea of how inflation will affect the cost of replacing the bridge after the design work is completed.
The $104,000 to design the new bridge will be added to the 2023 budget; however, the funds will be taken out of the city's capital reserve, meaning it will not affect next year's property tax increase, councillors heard during discussion.
The other two options presented to council were to repair the bridge in its current state, which would add an estimated 10 years to its lifespan and cost $515,000, or replace the bridge with a culvert, which would have a lifespan of about 50 years, and cost an estimated $1.12 million.
If funding for construction is approved when requested, George told council that the bridge would open in the latter half of next year.
In response to a question from Coun. Shelley Biermanski, administration said that a few residents live on either immediate side of the bridge and are able to leave and return home by using alternate routes, but long-term closure of the bridge will certainly be inconvenient for them.
“Something just witnessed onsite during the closure, during harvest time, was quite a few (farmers who) mentioned that for clearance reasons this was the only access they could transfer their equipment across," Faizal Kanji, an infrastructure engineer with the city, told council.
"That would be a challenge we would have in the springtime."
After moving the motion to fund the design work for a replacement bridge, Coun. Ken MacKay said, "this was something we inherited from Sturgeon County in our annexation, and so with the good sometimes comes a little of the bad.”
“We are now into rural structures just like we are into rural road clearing," MacKay said.
In an interview on Nov. 10, MacKay said although the annexed lands allow St. Albert room to grow, rural areas come with maintenance costs just as the rest of the city does.
"With the larger annexation, we do now find ourselves in a situation where a portion of our roadway is rural and we need to respond to that," he said, mentioning for example one business case in the proposed 2023 budget is the purchase of a grader specifically for clearing snow from rural and gravel roads.
"There's pros with the annexation in that we get access to needed land for growth into the future ... but now we need to look after it," MacKay said.
After the design work is completed, council will have to decide whether to replace the Range Road 255 bridge immediately or hold off, as its approval could cause the delay of needed repair work on the Children's Bridge downtown, as well as repair work on the north retaining wall of the St. Albert Trail bridge over the Sturgeon River.
"I can honestly say that waiting two years, that would be the maximum limit I would like to wait on (the Children's Bridge) before we start losing any further level of service or any life cycle within that steel deck," Kanji told council.
Before council voted on the motion, Coun. Sheena Hughes said that she expects council will need to have further conversations next year regarding the prioritization of city projects, as she doesn't want projects that result from recently annexed lands to "supersede what was in the previous boundary."
"The reality is that we have accumulated more land that we are now responsible for, but that means that all of the priorities now need to be considered," Hughes said in an interview.
"We need to look and say, 'with the limited amount of money we have, where are we going to address the most urgent needs first, and what's going to have the largest impact?' and that just means that we're not going to simply make one area higher priority than another."