DCN ARCHIVES

September 14, 2012

National infrastructure report card not just about grades, says Canadian Construction Association

The message in the first-ever Canadian Infrastructure Report Card is more important than the actual findings, says the president of the Canadian Construction Association (CCA).

“I think everybody knew that certain infrastructure assets or categories perhaps are on the brink of being beyond their regular life and that we do have an infrastructure deficit in the country,” said Michael Atkinson, CCA president.

The report card provides an assessment of the condition of four primary asset categories of municipal infrastructure: drinking-water systems, wastewater and stormwater networks, and municipal roads. The current analysis does not break down results by region or population size.

The report card surveyed 123 municipalities, representing from 40.7 to 59.1 per cent of the Canadian population, depending on the infrastructure assets.

With respect to roads, many respondents do not have regular condition-assessment programs: 41.2 per cent reported that they do not have an inspection program for their highways, while the percentage dropped to between 20 to 25 per cent for arterial, collector and local roads.

More than half the roads surveyed fall below the rating of “good” with 32 per cent in “fair” conditioning and 20.6 per cent in “poor” to “very poor” condition.

The estimated replacement cost of the roads in fair to very poor condition is $91.1 billion, nationally.

Atkinson called this first report card a “snapshot” in time and said it will be a great measuring tool to determine how the nation is doing in addressing the infrastructure. It is intended to provide a national look at critical infrastructure across the country on an ongoing basis.

“We’re really trying to establish a national, empirical methodology to provide an objective overview of that state of municipal infrastructure nationally. The idea of the report card is not to make policy recommendations or to suggest financing solutions,” explained Atkinson.

The report card’s advisory committee worked with municipalities to ensure their infrastructure information was reported in a manner useable for the survey.

“By the mere fact of having this report card on an ongoing basis, we believe that it will help to facilitate more mature and effective asset management techniques, plans and systems so that municipalities generally will also become much more efficient and effective in keeping track of their own infrastructure,” said Atkinson.

In terms of wastewater infrastructure, 40.3 per cent of wastewater plants, pumping stations and storage tanks are in “fair” to “very poor” condition, and 30.1 per cent of pipes are in “fair” to “very poor” condition.

The replacement cost for the wastewater infrastructure in “fair” to “very poor” condition is $39 billion.

Despite an overall “good” rating for drinking water infrastructure, the report card warns that there is still cause for concern as 15.4 per cent of the systems were ranked “fair” to “very poor” for the condition of their pipes.

Of the plants, reservoirs and pumping stations surveyed, 14.4 per cent were in “fair” to “very poor” condition.

The replacement cost for the drinking water infrastructure in “fair” to “very poor” condition is $25.9 billion.

Canada’s stormwater management systems are the best of the infrastructure classes covered in the report card and were generally rated “very good”.

However, 12.5 per cent of stormwater installations surveyed fall below “good” condition, with that figure rising to 23.4 per cent for stormwater pipes.

The replacement cost for the stormwater infrastructure in “fair” to “very poor” condition is $15.8 billion.

The report card will contribute to a culture of long-term planning, says Atkinson.

“We can manage our resources, our human resources, our capital resources, our machinery equipment in a much more efficient manner, knowing that there’s a long-term plan for addressing that infrastructure.”

CCA partnered with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Canadian Public Works Association and the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering to deliver the report card.

The report acknowledged that it is unrealistic to expect the report card to provide a completely accurate assessment of the physical and capacity conditions.

Difficulties include the nature of the infrastructure assessed; the broad range of owners and operators; and their varying knowledge of their assets.

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