Council to hear report on reducing traffic disruption due to maintenance on Diefenbaker bridge

Herald file photo. A vehicle drives past a construction zone near the on-ramp to Diefenbaker Bridge in this Daily Herald file photo.

Prince Albert’s Director of Public Works has recommended the City develop an alternative bridge washing option to prevent traffic congestion on Diefenbaker Bridge.

The recommendation was part of a report on Bridge Maintenance Work Hours by Public Works Director Jeff Da Silva. In it, Da Silva writes that the spring bridge washing causes the largest amount of traffic disruption among all maintenance activities.

The City began the annual practice 10 years ago. Da Silva has suggested the City move away from a high pressure wash to a high volume wash, which would cause less wear and tear on the concrete while also reducing traffic disruptions.

“The maintenance equipment used will be mobile and will be moving across the bridge in order to wash the concrete,” Da Silva wrote in the report. This plan will also allow the maintenance operation to easily leave the bridge while traffic volumes are high, avoiding significant delays in traffic flow at peak times.”

The bridge is washed annually to remove salt, sand, and other sediments to from the concrete barriers. Annual bridge washings are a regular maintenance item designed to extend the structure’s lifespan.

The annual bridge washing is one of several maintenance items that can cause significant delays. Da Silva wrote that Public Works understands the need to provide “critical maintenance work in a less impactful manner”, but recommended against “specific restrictions” for maintenance activity on the bridge.

Instead, he recommends council give the department the green light to develop a more flexible and adaptable maintenance plan to reduce traffic disruption between May 1 and Oct. 1.

Da Silva wrote that introducing restricted working hours to limit traffic disruptions may make the City liable should any damage occur due to conditions the City knew about, or ought to have known about, but did not repair.

He also wrote that performing maintenance overnight, or during other hours without peak traffic, may result in cost increases. The City’s current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) requires staff receive 48 hours notice before their shift is changed. Once changed, the shift must last for two weeks.

Da Silva wrote that most maintenance work does not take two weeks, and added that the shift timing would create “significant overtime”.

Da Silva wrote the report following a motion from City Council on June 3 asking administration to look at the impact of implementing restricted work hours on Diefenbaker Bridge. The report will be up for discussion at Monday’s executive committee meeting.

A 2019 report showed roughly 24,000 vehicles cross Diefenbaker Bridge each day. That number does not include motorcycles or bikes.

@kerr_jas •