THUNDER BAY – Aging roadways, bridges and other infrastructure are a concern for all three levels of government. Thunder Bay’s infrastructure is aging while demand for better municipal services is growing in response to higher standards of safety, health, and environmental protection, and, to some degree, growth.
Thunder Bay is among the Canadian municipalities whose infrastructure is aging and requires attention, according to the first-ever Canadian Infrastructure Report Card. This major new study was released today in Ottawa by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and three industry partner organizations.
The report card, which surveyed more than 120 municipalities representing 60% of the Canadian population, says more than half of municipal roads are falling apart beneath our tires. One in four roads is over capacity, transporting far more people and goods than it was designed to handle. And one in four wastewater treatment plants needs to be upgraded or replaced to meet new federal standards introduced this summer, at a cost of at least $20 billion. Without immediate improvement and ongoing maintenance, the cost of fixing or replacing the assets studied will explode over the next decade.
“The report card shows that core municipal infrastructure like roads and water systems, assets critical to Canada’s health, safety and economic prosperity, are at risk,” said Councillor Linda Rydholm, FCM Board Member. “Investments in infrastructure over the last few years have helped, but without long-term action we are still headed for a crisis.”
“We acknowledge we are our infrastructure is aging and there is a need,” said Darrell Matson, General Manager – Infrastructure & Operations, City of Thunder Bay. “We have accepted the challenge to fund our own infrastructure as best we can by putting in place a “go forward strategy” that addresses the concerns in the Report Card.”
Thunder Bay has been strategically working to address its infrastructure needs. Beginning in 2004, the City’s Transportation & Works Department (now Infrastructure & Operations) reviewed its existing long range infrastructure strategies and current technical and financial practices. Staff compared the existing strategies and practices to best asset management practices in other municipalities and the InfraGuide prepared by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the National Research Council and Infrastructure Canada. City staff produced an integrated asset management plan that identified ways to minimize life cycle costs and maintain adequate service levels at the lowest possible risk. From 2004 to 2011 capital funding increased. However the amount of funding required to implement the plan exceeded the established level of capital spending.
The 2011-2014 Strategic Plan approved by City Council supported an increase in capital financing capacity to reduce the annual infrastructure deficit and, in addition, requested administration to develop enhanced infrastructure funding options. The Enhanced Infrastructure Renewal Program (EIRP) was approved by City Council and beginning in 2012, the EIRP was integrated into the budget process to address ongoing capital needs through incremental and dedicated property tax increases. As well as the ReNew Thunder Bay Plan “Building Our City”, a five-year capital plan to help grow the economy through targeted and highly strategic infrastructure investments. By 2014, the gap between the amount of funding required to implement the City’s asset management plan and annual capital spending is expected to have been reduced by approximately 60 per cent.
Thunder Bay is one of only two communities that are highlighted in the Province of Ontario’s Guide for Municipal Asset Management Plans from the Ministry of Infrastructure.
“It is our hope that the Federal government moves forward with steps that address municipal infrastructure challenges so that we can achieve our strategic goals to provide strong, healthy vibrant communities and not leave taxpayers with the enormous challenge of renewing vital infrastructure,” said Acting Mayor Larry Hebert. “We’ve put in place numerous plans to address our infrastructure needs at the Municipal level, but Municipalities can’t do it alone; infrastructure must be a priority with all orders of government.”
Thunder Bay joins the FCM in calling for a new long-term federal infrastructure plan that will provide Canadian communities with the stable, secure funding they need to put our infrastructure back on solid ground.
The FCM partnered with the Canadian Construction Association, the Canadian Public Works Association and the Canadian Civil Engineering Society to deliver the Canadian Infrastructure Report Card. This marks the first time a group of national stakeholders worked together to measure the state and performance of municipal infrastructure from one end of Canada to the other. This first edition of the report card measured the condition of municipal roads, drinking water, wastewater, and storm water systems. Future studies, which the FCM and its partners plan to release on a regular basis, will look at other assets such as housing and transit.
The full report card, as well as background information and supporting documents, can be viewed at www.canadainfrastructure.ca, a new website launched today.