Higher than expected bids have caused a further delay in the rerouting of the Old Smith Highway.

M.D. of Lesser Slave River council decided to hold off on changing two stream crossings on a new portion of the Old Smith Highway until summer 2024. The decision was made at the October 25, 2023 meeting after an open presentation on the issue from CAO Barry Kolenosky and a closed discussion between council and its lawyer about legal ramifications.

After the closed session, Councillor Brad Pearson said, “since all tenders were over, we’re deferring this work.”

The bid which was before council to start the work was just to replace the west culvert. It received three tenders – Martushev $2,598,000, Avid $2,695,236 (smaller road so did not meet the specifications), and Prairie North $3,757,429.
With the money already spent ($1,059,316), if council went ahead with half of the work this year, they would be $926,027 over the budget for the whole project.
Building during the normal road construction season should be cheaper and more efficient, says the report. Also, a bid for the full project would have lower set up and associated costs.

The written report says, “about 1.8 km of the Smith Road need to be realigned.”
This is a portion of the road which is close to the Lesser Slave River. This includes two failed stream crossings.
“The west crossing has a metal culvert,” says the report. “The water can be seen running under the culvert. This is causing slides and slumping on both ends of the culvert.

“Further, there is a slide just to the west of the culvert where the fill from the original road construction is moving. The slide has reached the edge of the road and is becoming a hazard to traffic. This work will reduce the risk of this slide, but may not eliminate it.”
“The culvert on the east side is in an unstable area and the road continuously slides towards the river,” says the report. “Further, the river is adjacent to the road so there is a concern that the river will erode the road. At some point in the past concrete rip rap has been placed at the edge of the river to prevent further erosion. This appears to be working.”

In 2017, analysis of the issue estimated a cost of $3,141,368, says the report. In 2018, a provincial grant and municipal funds were earmarked for the project which at the time had an estimated cost of $2,936,741. In 2022, the estimate increased to $3,149,814 or $4,343,754 (including stabilizing the slides). At that time a route was chosen and a right of way cleared.
In 2023, the Saulteaux Wildfires disrupted the top soil stripping which had started, said the report. The project was divided into two chunks. There were some stops and starts with engineering. In August 2023, Brian Vance was hired to get the project going.

“At that point the road design wasn’t done,” said the report written by Vance. “The goetechnical recommendations had not been received. The environmental permits had not been applied for. The specification for obtaining tenders had not been prepared, and the utilities had not been notified regarding the relocation of the telephone and power lines. Also, minimal geotechnical work had been done on the east and the east end required further protection from silt runoffs. This has now all been addressed, but of course we are at the end of the construction season.”

Culvert work has stipulations to protect fish, which means that if the culverts aren’t replaced in the fall and winter, they cannot be replaced until after July 15, says the report.

by Pearl Lorentzen

This item copyrighted by   AlbertaChat.com / Lakeside Leaader   Slave Lake, Alberta

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