The roads & bridges that connect usJun 3, 2013 ● Build Strong Cities, Infrastructure ● Kadie Ward
I had no idea how big Canada was until I took the VIA train across it. Canada is a big country. 9,984,670 km² to be exact. And in order to connect suppliers to customers, people with jobs, and importers/exporters to global markets it’s becoming apparent that Canada needs fast, efficient transportation networks.
The recent Great Canadian Infrastructure Challenge noted that over time our country has allowed traffic gridlock to spiral out of control, public transit systems to grow old and crowded, and gaps to form in national transportation networks.
While we took the train across Canada, I did some research on our highway transportation system. Canada’s current transportation system is comprised of more than 1,400,000 kilometres of roads, 10 major international airports, 300 smaller airports, 72,093 km of functioning railway track, and more than 300 commercial ports and harbours that provide access to the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans as well as the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence Seaway. Vital to our transportation system, Canada has over 80,000 bridges with 30% of them that are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
Over 100 years ago we started the debate about building the trans Canada highway as a means to connect and grow our country. The investment in the trans Canada system is in great need of repair with modern, smart, and sustainable planning for the future. For instance, in “To modernize Canada’s public infrastructure every bridge needs a new switch,” Rick Huijbregts notes that $5B would be required per annum for the renewal of Canada’s bridges alone.
But what if we looked at a new intelligent and sustainable approach to infrastructure construction and management? Huijbregts asks: “an investment in broadband and networks as one of Canada’s pivotal infrastructures, can maybe also reduce the traffic on these bridges? Can we commute and travel less through the application of advanced collaboration, while increasing interactions that drive economic opportunity and business transactions? Can we reduce and spread congestion and therefore re-distribute the bridges’ utilization and structural stress?” More than this, what if the materials we built new roads and bridges were designed to last 100 years and built through low-carbon emission processes?
Important questions to consider as we have the opportunity to define sustainable and intelligent development right now as we plan to rebuild and develop our bridges, roads, and rails.
The old argument still stands: If we’re going to complete in the global economy, we need to invest in our transportation network and grow it for the future. But we must adopt a new paradigm for development.