EDMONTON — The Alberta government is offering nearly $35 million to help rural municipalities rebuild local roads, bridges and community airports.
The money is delivered through the strategic transportation infrastructure program that was cut from the provincial budget in 2013.
The deadline to apply for money is Feb. 3 to take advantage of the summer construction season, said Brian Mason, the province’s minister of transportation and infrastructure.
About $21 million is allocated for the road-bridge program, $7 million for resource roads, $2 million for community airports and $5 million for local municipal initiatives.
“During this downturn in the economy, we should increase our spending on infrastructure be-cause it keeps people working and secondly, tenders are coming in a lot lower because there is not as much work for the companies,” Mason said at the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties fall meeting, which was held in Edmonton Nov. 15-17.
The most recent figures indicate at least $70 million per year is needed to restore bridges for the next 10 years, said Al Kemmere, AAMDC president and a councillor in Mountainview County.
“The airport program is huge,” he said. “It is not only an economic driver, but it is a link for people.”
The program now provides funds to add lighting on runways so these small facilities can be used at night and in winter.
Rural municipalities are responsible for 8,800 bridges, and many are 50 to 60 years old. Kemmere said these aging structures need work, and if they become unsafe they are closed.
Rural municipalities manage 77 percent of resource roads needed to get to industrial sites. These are often damaged because of heavy truck traffic. Deferred maintenance on municipal and provincial infrastructure for water, sewer, roads and bridges has turned into a major deficit for the province.
“You can’t keep letting things run down and run down because you have to replace it at a higher costs,” Mason said.