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More Money For Rural Bridges

The province is promising to help municipalities fix aging bridges, some of which are now well over a half-century old and in dire need of upgrades or repairs.

The pledge came from Premier Greg Selinger during a brief appearance at last week’s Association of Manitoba Municipalities convention. But the premier offered few details on the new Municipal Bridge Program, except to say funding will be included in next spring’s budget and that municipalities will be consulted on the program’s design.

The program, expected to be launched in time for the 2011 construction season, was welcomed by municipal leaders such as Reeve Jason Vanstone of the R.M. of Thompson. His municipality has upwards of 20 bridges, due to the area’s topography which includes the Pembina escarpment.

“We’re an average-size municipality with probably an abnormally high number of municipal bridges,” he said.

One big problem municipalities have with these older bridges is that they were built when agricultural machinery was much smaller and lighter.

“A lot of these roads and bridges were put in (during the period) after the Second World War,” he said.

Municipalities also don’t have the cash to do much-needed repairs, let alone upgrades on these bridges, Vanstone continued.

“We do as much as we can with maintenance. But it doesn’t matter what level of government you’re at, everyone is way behind.”

One recent bridge upgrade cost nearly $100,000 – and replacing the bridge would have cost millions, he said.

“This is something we’ve been asking for for a long time,” said AMM president Doug Dobrowolski, adding that the province did away with a previous program that was cost shared with municipalities on a 50/50 basis.

“We don’t know what the agreement will be this time. We’ll sit down and design this program,” he said.

Selinger also announced highway renewal projects for 2011, involving more than 1,000 kilometres of roadway construction. The province says it has invested over $1.8 billion and upgraded more than 5,000 kilometres of road in the last three years. [email protected]

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Projects planned for southern portion of the province next year include:

Continuing work on CentrePort Way and paving 20 km of PTH 3 between Carman and Winkler.

More than 13 km of PTH 11 paved north of Lac du Bonnet.

Completing reconstruction of southbound lanes of PTH 75 between Morris and Ste. Agathe and start of reconstruction of PTH 75 through Morris.

Completion of the eastern access in Brandon.

Paving 18 km of the Trans-Canada Highway between Carberry and Sydney including paved shoulders.

Paving 18 km of PTH 16 between Binscarth and Foxwarren.

Improving PTH 9 near Selkirk, structure replacement at Parks Creek and paving three kilometres.

Paving PTH 17 between Poplarfield and Fisher Branch, and paving PTH 68 from west of Vogar to the Lake Manitoba Narrows.

Grading 14 km of PTH 10 just east of Swan River.

Improving intersections in Dauphin on PTH 20 at Mountain Road, and paving PTH 83 to complete reconstruction between Swan River and Roblin.

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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