Superintendent talks infrastructure following recent announcement

That bridge on Snaring Road sure has seen better days; those days are coming back for it.

Supt. Alan Fehr confirmed that both the Snaring Road Bridge and the H.J. Moberly Bridge are two of the pieces of infrastructure that will benefit from the recent $71 million in federal funding for four national parks.

“All bridges need to be inspected on a regular basis, and from time to time they need to be upgraded, whether it's just maintenance and repairs, or there could be more significant recapitalization required,” he said.

Recapitalization could mean repairs or upgrades to anything from the bridge deck to the railings, or it could mean full replacements.

The work on those two bridges is considered design work, which starts with assessments based on years of inspections.

Considering the sheer volume of infrastructure assets – Jasper National Park has 1,000 built assets alone with a replacement value of $1.65 billion – the jobs need to be done right and on the right schedule.

“Infrastructure maintenance and repair is ongoing,” Fehr said. “As long as you've got that piece of infrastructure, you're constantly assessing and maintaining and/or recapitalizing it eventually.”

The first step of this recapitalization is to get the design work done, which takes quite a large sum of money, he explained. Afterwards, there will be a better sense of the work that is required and how much it's going to cost. The physical work will be funded through a separate, future application.

Fehr said that he can foresee a busy future ahead, considering the age of many of these built assets.

“The issue that jurisdictions are facing (and not just Parks Canada’s) is a lot of our infrastructure was built through the 60s and 70s,” he said.

“A lot of it is coming due now. The assessments are starting to show that some of these things need some attention. Parks Canada, what they're working through now is an attempt to get some what we call asset sustainability funding.”

Another project is on the Icefields Parkway, close to the Poboktan Warden Station. There is a stretch of that road perhaps a few kilometers long where there are issues related to drainage and freeze-thaw effects on the roadway surface.

That project alone will take more than $11 million to fix, whereas the design work on the two bridges will be somewhere between $1.5 and $2 million.

On the administrative and communications side of things, Jasper National Parks is also set to receive upgrades to its dispatch radio console equipment.

This investment is part of the Government of Canada’s recent package of $557 million for Parks Canada infrastructure and maintenance funding over three years.

Fehr said that the Government of Canada has requested a proposal that would allow for the planning and the recapitalization work to be done on a schedule.

“That works better for the government. It works better for Parks Canada. It works better for Jasper because then we can do the planning necessary so that when we do get the assessments and inspections, we can say ‘okay, what needs the most attention?’ We put that into a long-term investment plan.”

Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh