A special report on the province’s bridge inspections was searing and shows the Tory government has failed to divert enough monies to the roadway network, says the NDP’s transportation critic.
“It’s a chronic sign of government neglect,” said St. John’s East MHA George Murphy.
A Weekend Telegram report shed light on the state of more than 730 bridges at their last inspections, in many cases 2012, though many others date to 2010 and 2011 and a few even earlier.
One-hundred-and-sixty-eight bridges were found to be in poor condition. One was deemed unsafe and is now closed along with one other.
About two dozen are being repaired, replaced or are likely to have work done in the near future. Government has some others under review or has determined work can wait.
Roughly 420 bridges were listed in fair condition.
Among them was the Sir Ambrose Shea lift bridge in Placentia when it was inspected in 2011. Further testing by consultants — hired by government in the wake of a tender call for its replacement that proved too expensive — discovered it should have a weight restriction until emergency repairs are done.
Last week Transportation and Works Minister Tom Hedderson told The Telegram the “infrastructure deficit” was inherited from the Liberals when the Tories took over in 2003, and that his government has spent $22 million rehabilitating or replacing some 200 bridges since 2009.
But Murphy estimated Monday the provincial government has taken in upwards of $2 billion in gas taxes over the years and much of that should have been rolled back into crucial bridge work. The revenues from gas taxes in 2011-12 alone were $168 million.
“We haven’t seen the strategic investment on roads,” he said.
“Now government is stuck with this problem and is more focused on other projects (like the multibillion-dollar Muskrat Falls project) than infrastructure deficits.”
As for Hedderson declaring the bridges are all safe, Murphy said it’ll only take one accident to prove otherwise.
And he said it’s wrong to suggest
a lot of the damage is cosmetic, noting the essential safety of guardrails, for instance, to keep people from careening over the side if they lose control.
A common theme throughout many of the reports was missing or deteriorated guardrails.
The reports also detailed crumbling and deteriorating concrete components, exposed rebar, severe erosion and a host of other problems with various bridges.
“I think there is an underlying concern people don’t know what they’re driving over,” Murphy said.
He said by the poor condition of the Sir Robert Bond bridge over the Exploits River, the federal government needs to step up and show its support of the Trans-Canada Highway network in this province.
Murphy said if the NDP was in government, it would shift more funding towards roads and bridges and share with municipalities because such levies as gas taxes are sustainable.
“Your report only put light on that in very strong fashion” he said.