Bridging The Infrastructure Gap
Development and Innovation Though infrastructure is a part of every Canadian’s life in one way or another — from the electricity and water we use at home, to the roads or public transportation we take to work — few people actually have an appreciation of just how much we depend on it in our daily lives.
“Infrastructure is really what gives our society the ability to function socially and economically. It enables commerce and develops communities,” says John Gamble, President and CEO of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies. Despite being so central to our lives, infrastructure is largely underappreciated — and unseen. “One of the challenges of infrastructure is that, as important as it is to our standard of living and quality of life, if you do it well, it becomes invisible. It’s as though we’ve allowed ourselves to believe that bridges and roads were natural phenomena and electricity and water just came out of the walls,” notes Gamble.
“It’s important to have a good understanding of what the current state of your infrastructure is and what it needs to be into the future.”
Luckily, this underappreciation does not seem to be shared by either the previous or our present government, who have made commitments to invest in fortifying the frameworks that keep this country functioning smoothly.
“Infrastructure is a great enabler,” emphasizes Gamble. “It allows economic activity and commerce to take place which is where real jobs and opportunity come from.”
One can point to Halifax’s MacKay and Macdonald Bridges as prime examples of well-maintained assets, both serving on average 105,000 cars a day, every day. In mid-2015 Halifax Harbour Bridges undertook “The Big Lift” on the Macdonald Bridge — a period of rejuvenation that will eventually see the entire road deck, as well as other structural elements, either replaced or protected from further wear and tear. Estimated at $150 million, it will engage local contractors and tradespeople, revitalize the main artery connecting Dartmouth and Halifax, and cause minimal delays to commuters during construction. This project, as well as regular upkeep, were planned proactively to extend the life of the bridge.
“A plan is critical. It’s how you know what to invest in long term,” says Gamble. “It’s important to have a good understanding of what the current state of your infrastructure is and what it needs to be into the future. A strong asset management outline will allow informed decision making. We owe it to future generations to make smart decisions today. If we underinvest in infrastructure, it’s going to create an enormous challenge and directly impact the prosperity of our children and our country.”