This photo of the bridge on Township 441 west of Range Road 15 shows a view from the underside of the third span of the bridge deck with deteriorating concrete and what is described as a medium sized hole in the deck. Image: Ponoka County

Ponoka County looking at new bridge as one near Rimbey is failing

One lane closed, weight restricted on bridge located near Rimbey gas plant

One rather significant bridge in Ponoka County is in such bad condition is down to one lane.

The two-lane bridge — located on Township 441 just west of Range Road 15 — is down to one following an inspection conducted Dec. 4 by the county’s public works department and the civil engineering firm MPA Engineering out of Sherwood Park.

“That inspection found several of the wooden pilings were rotting, a few of the concrete beams had some serious cracks and there were holes punched through the bridge deck,” explained CAO Charlie Cutforth.

“There also appeared to be some beams shifting one on side, so a weight restriction has been placed on the bridge…The engineers did state that will be good enough for now, but it urgently needs to be replaced.”

County council did approve a plan at a recent meeting that would see it replaced as quickly as can be accomplished, while not absolving the provincial government of its responsibility regarding infrastructure.

“There is a grant available from Alberta Transportation and we have our application in. We’ve been told a decision was expected sometime in December, but we are also one of many that are looking for funding,” Cutforth said.

“Ponoka County has 186 bridge files with 100 of those are 60 or more years old and they all seem to be failing at around the same time.”

“However, the province has stated there are literally thousands of similar bridges in other municipalities, so council has approved moving forward and hopefully the grant will come through.”

Public works will monitor the bridge’s condition and proceeding with having engineers generate detailed design plans for a new bridge in order to be prepared to immediately send the project to tender when the province comes out with its funding.

“Council has authorized to get this done, regardless of what the province does and fortunately we have the finances right now to get this done. However, with so many bridges and at an average of $1 million to replace, this situation is not good,” Cutforth noted.

While the bridge is not on a major traffic route, it is an important piece of the county’s infrastructure in the region and part of the reason council had decided to go it alone if needed.

“The bridge is essential to the county as it sees a lot of heavy truck traffic, especially with it being so close to our Anderson gravel pit,” Cutforth added.

“With it being winter, it’s not as bad since we aren’t hauling, but farmers and the nearby Keyera Gas Plant with B-train semi-trailer trucks did use the route quite frequently.”

We have scheduled a list of inspections because we have so many, however we go back to the poor ones far more often.

Bridge closure is not affecting truck routes for Keyera Gas Plant, says area manager James Pratt. “It’s not affecting our trucking routes. There is nothing blocked there,” he said, adding Keyera uses Hwy. 771 for its trucking routes.

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This shot of the underside of the bridge’s third span shows severe breaking down, or spalling, of the concrete girder. Image: Ponoka County

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