Almost half of AG's bridge recommendations from 3 years ago still not acted on
Safety top priority, says Department of Transportation and Infrastructure
Three years after the auditor general found 293 bridges in New Brunswick were in "poor" condition, nearly half of her recommended changes to inspections and maintenance have not been implemented.
But the department says safety is its top priority.
"Bridges in New Brunswick are regularly inspected by provincial bridge inspectors to ensure they are safe for the public," spokesman Jeff Hull said in an emailed statement on Thursday.
"Poor" ratings should not be interpreted as unsafe, stressed Hull. "What these numbers show are bridges which are advancing in their life cycle and which will require service in the near term," he said.
"If a bridge is unsafe it will be closed."
Auditor General Kim MacPherson said Tuesday six of her 13 recommendations to the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DTI) are still outstanding.
- Reprieve or replace? Meeting held to discuss damaged covered bridge
- Jemseg Bridge decommissioning set to start
- More repairs slated for Princess Margaret bridge in 2016-17
Among them is establishing guidelines for bridge repair and replacement project selection and documenting the rationale for the projects selected.
MacPherson had also recommended in her 2013 report that the department clearly define the least life cycle cost for bridges and adopt this approach in prioritizing all capital bridge work.
Working to improve asset management
DTI has committed to "incorporating best asset management practices" into how it deals with aging bridges in its long-term strategic capital planning framework, released in February, said Hull.
"Asset management strategically manages and schedules maintenance, repair and rehabilitation and, where appropriate, decommissioning, which over the long term will help to address the challenges posed by the provincial government's aging infrastructure in an efficient, economical manner," the document states.
"Given the province's financial situation, the province must look at every government infrastructure asset carefully," said Hull.
In 2016-17, nearly $76 million was committed to the bridge program budget, he said.
"The department continues to work diligently toward improved asset management in all areas, including bridges."
Repairing the Hammond River No. 2 covered bridge would take about eight months, while replacing it with a steel one would take approximately three months. Both options would cost an estimated $1 million.
The bridge, one of only 60 remaining covered bridges in the province, was not among the 293 flagged by MacPherson in 2013.
Her audit looked at 2,553 bridge structures across the province, which were rated on a bridge condition index (BCI) up to 100.
Properly maintained bridges are essential to the integrity of the transportation system and the safety of New Brunswickers.- Auditor general's 2013 report
Those that received a score of 60 or below were deemed in "poor" condition, indicating "significant" maintenance work was required in the "near term" to keep the bridge in service.
"I am particularly concerned and the message I keep repeating is that our infrastructure is not being maintained," MacPherson had said at the time.
"Provincial bridges are an integral part of the road and highway system. Properly maintained bridges are essential to the integrity of the transportation system and the safety of New Brunswickers," the report stated.
The Lorneville Creek causeway, which received one of the worst scores with a rating of one, partially collapsed a week after MacPherson's report and was closed. It had been flagged for repairs seven years prior, but never fixed.
Problems with the bridge, which was built around 1960, had been noted in 2001, 2006, and 2008.
As of May 2015, only half of the bridges MacPherson identified as requiring significant maintenance had received attention by DTI.
Of the remaining 148 bridges, only 11 were scheduled to receive any during that fiscal year.
Other outstanding recommendations from MacPherson's 2013 report include:
- Document bridge inspection processes in a single comprehensive manual.
- Follow the Ontario Structures Inspection Manual guidelines for reporting bridge component deterioration and record the quantitative information, such as the width and extent of cracks in the inspection reports, which leads to a better estimation of rehabilitation needs.
- Add a severity rating component to the material rating process, similar to the one used in Ontario.
- Standardize the use of priority codes within the inspection reporting process.