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Opposition MLA says engineering report evidence of high risk for P.E.I. bridges

PC MLA Jamie Fox, left, speaks with Premier Wade MacLauchlan prior to the start of question period in the provincial legislature earlier this week. Fox obtained an internal report on bridge inspections conducted in 2017 that noted 2,108 instances of performance deficiencies in bridges across the Island.
PC MLA Jamie Fox, left, speaks with Premier Wade MacLauchlan prior to the start of question period in the provincial legislature earlier this week. Fox obtained an internal report on bridge inspections conducted in 2017 that noted 2,108 instances of performance deficiencies in bridges across the Island. - Mitch MacDonald

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - An Opposition member is raising alarm about the state of bridge infrastructure on P.E.I. after a report revealed 52 per cent of bridges on the Island were either in fair or poor condition.

Borden-Kinkora PC MLA Jamie Fox raised the issue during question period on Thursday after obtaining an internal report — a summary of bridge inspections conducted in 2017 by engineer Darrell Evans from the Department of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy.

The report noted 2,108 instances of performance deficiencies in bridges across the Island, including 990 instances involving load-carrying capacity.

Of the 288 bridges inspected by Evans, 52 per cent were deemed either fair or poor. The report noted that of those 288 bridges - 18 per cent of the Island's entire structural network - were the only ones that were regularly inspected on a two-year basis.

The report also found that bridges in “good” condition grew from 32 per cent in 2012 to 53 per cent in 2017, while bridges in “poor” condition dropped from 40 per cent to 20 per cent. The percentage of bridges deemed to be in “fair” condition stayed relatively the same over this five-year period.

Fox singled out Transportation Minister Paula Biggar in question period.

“Did you know that the minister’s department says that 52 per cent of the 288 bridges were assessed in fair or poor condition? Doesn’t that tell you that you have a big problem on your hands?” Fox asked.

"Where are we putting our money? I am against the Cornwall bypass. There is $75 million that could have been used in other infrastructure programs across the whole Island. Instead, we put it in one area.”
-Jamie Fox

In response, Biggar said bridge inspection practices on P.E.I. are sound.

“We invest $7 million annually in our bridge infrastructure. We do ongoing bridge inspection programs,” Biggar said.

After question period, Biggar told The Guardian that P.E.I.’s bridge inspection practices met Canadian transportation standards. She said the report’s findings were not cause for alarm.

"It doesn't mean they aren't safe," Biggar said of the 52 per cent of bridges that were deemed in a fair or poor state. "It means that they are in need of attention. If we feel that something is not safe, it is restricted."

Biggar said when departmental staff identify an unsafe bridge, either due to weather events or any other reason, restrictions are placed upon the bridge.

But Fox said the Department of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy is not investing resources in the needed areas. 

"Where are we putting our money? I am against the Cornwall bypass. There is $75 million that could have been used in other infrastructure programs across the whole Island. Instead, we put it in one area," Fox said.

"It really goes to show that we're really not putting enough maintenance and repair into our bridges and they need to be more of a high priority."

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