Government promises to step up inspections
There are 93 per cent more bridges in poor overall condition today than there were a decade ago, says the province’s auditor general, Terry Paddon.
© — TC Media file photo
The Sir Robert Bond bridge over the Exploits River near Bishop’s Falls in central Newfoundland was found to be in overall poor condition when it was inspected this year. Inspectors recommended that repairs take place within a year.
“This situation highlights the need for an adequate system of bridge inspection and planning for future bridge rehabilitation and replacement,” Paddon wrote in his annual report released Thursday.
More than half the provincial bridges are older than 40 years.
Paddon also noted that the condition of more than 400 large culvert structures was not included in the bridge inspection system.
Of 234 bridge projects included in the 2004-11 eight-year plan, only 58 per cent were completed, the AG noted.
And it turned out the price tag ran 62 per cent higher than the original estimates.
Paddon also faulted the plan for not ranking bridge rehabilitation and replacement in order of priority.
• 126 of the 154 bridges that have a poor overall rating are not included in the current five-year plan, 2014-18 and the structures are not ranked in order of priority.
• The cost of replacing bridges more than 40 years old would be $800 million, or eight times greater than the department’s planned level of funding in the next five years.
• The province is not aware of the condition of bridges in municipal and other jurisdictions that are integral to the provincial road system and they may not be adequately monitored.
• Provincial bridges are not always selected for inspection in compliance with best practices.
• The two-year bridge inspection standards were not always complied with. The AG found 235 instances where there were gaps of more than three years between bridge inspections and 69 instances where there were gaps of more than five years between inspections.
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In response to the AG’s concerns, the Department of Transportation and Works said it has hired two staff to conduct a review of the inventory data so all information in the system is accurate and large culverts are added.
It also said while the needs are great, it’s trying to rehabilitate or repair bridges each year — 166 were repaired between 2004-12 and 88 were replaced.
And the department noted it has new bridge management software that will aid the prioritizing of bridge rehabilitation and replacement projects.
It said it will require that inspections are done on each structure every two years, although geography and available resources are a challenge.
In a news release, NDP Leader Lorraine Michael chastised government for its neglect of bridges.
“Despite an eight-year plan, the number of ‘poor’ rated bridges has doubled since 2003,” Michael said. “This is not what I would describe as staying on top of a problem.”
In recent years The Telegram compiled its own electronic database of bridge inspection results, sharing it with readers, but this past year, the province made the reports available electronically.