August 12, 2020

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Visual Briefing

How old are Manitoba's bridges?

You and thousands of other drivers were funneled back into Winnipeg after a weekend at the lake. How old are some of the bridges you drove over?

The Province of Manitoba is responsible for nearly 2,600 bridges and bridge-sized culverts with an average age over 42 years old.

It's hard to give a precise average age because more than 200 of Manitoba's structures are so old that the government isn't sure when they were built, according to data obtained by the Free Press through a freedom of information request.

Every bridge and large culvert in the province's inventory. <br/> 1 dot = 1 structure

Every bridge and large culvert in the province's inventory.
1 dot = 1 structure

According to Statistics Canada, the mean service life of a bridge is 43.3 years.

The last time the federal government conducted a national survey of infrastructure, in 2007, Manitoba had the second-oldest infrastructure in the country. Statistics Canada told the Free Press it is set to release new data in the fall based on information gathered in 2016.

Meanwhile, in a scathing 2016 report, Manitoba's auditor general said the province had failed to inspect bridges and culverts as often as needed.

The Free Press asked the Manitoba government for a complete inventory of bridges, overpasses and large culverts.

We obtained information on each structure's location, age and its inspection cycle.

According to government's response, bridge inspections appear to now be up to date -- though the AG also noted in that nearly 300 structures were not being inspected at all because they were considered the responsibility of other departments or quasi-government authorities.

The replacement value of the province's bridges and culverts is estimated at $9.2 billion.

An example of a large culvert on the Perimeter highway over the Seine River.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

An example of a large culvert on the Perimeter highway over the Seine River.

When Manitoba's structures were built

How old is the infrastructure you're driving on?

If you're headed to Saskatoon on the Yellowhead highway, you're driving over some of the oldest structures of any major highway in southern Manitoba.  Between the Trans-Canada Highway and the Saskachewan border, the average age of bridges and large culverts is over 50.

If you're headed south to the U.S. border via Highway 59, it's some of the newest.

Below each map shows the number of bridges completed at which year.

Structures over 45 years old

Structures under 45 years old

 

Highway 59 (South)

Average structure age:

30.2

Oldest structure:

Timber bridge, built in 1959

 

Winnipeg

United States

15 Bridges built

10

5

0

1900

1924

1948

1972

1996

 

Highway 75

Average structure age:

31.8

Winnipeg

Oldest structure:

Steel culvert

built in 1949

 

United States

15

10

5

0

1900

1924

1948

1972

1996

 

Highway 59 (North)

Average structure age:

35.9

Hillside Beach

Oldest structure:

Steel girder bridge

built in 1961

 

Winnipeg

15

10

5

0

1900

1924

1948

1972

1996

 

Highway 100 and 101 (Perimeter)

Average structure age:

36.3

Oldest structure:

Steel culvert

built in 1950

 

Winnipeg

15

10

5

0

1900

1924

1948

1972

1996

 

Highway 8

Average structure age:

41.4

Hecla

Oldest structure:

Concrete culvert

built in 1956

 

Winnipeg

15

10

5

0

1900

1924

1948

1972

1996

 

Highway 1 (East)

Average structure age:

42.8

Winnipeg

Kenora

Oldest structure:

Concrete culvert

built in 1952

 

15

10

5

0

1900

1924

1948

1972

1996

 

Highway 1 (West)

Average structure age:

45

Sask.

Oldest structure:

Concrete culvert

built in 1918

 

Winnipeg

15

10

5

0

1900

1924

1948

1972

1996

 

Highway 16

Average structure age:

50.8

Sask.

Oldest structure:

Concrete culvert

built in 1954

 

Portage la Prairie

15

10

5

0

1900

1924

1948

1972

1996

Structures over 45 years old

Structures under 45 years old

 

Highway 75

Average structure age:

31.8

 

Highway 59 (South)

Average structure age:

30.2

Oldest structure:

Timber bridge, built in 1959

 

Winnipeg

Winnipeg

Oldest structure:

Steel culvert

built in 1949

 

United States

United States

15

15 Bridges built

10

10

5

5

0

0

1900

1924

1948

1972

1996

1900

1924

1948

1972

1996

 

Highway 59 (North)

Average structure age:

35.9

 

Highway 100 and 101 (Perimeter)

Average structure age:

36.3

Hillside Beach

Oldest structure:

Steel culvert

built in 1950

 

Oldest structure:

Steel girder bridge

built in 1961

 

Winnipeg

Winnipeg

15

15

10

10

5

5

0

0

1900

1924

1948

1972

1996

1900

1924

1948

1972

1996

 

Highway 8

Average structure age:

41.4

 

Highway 1 (East)

Average structure age:

42.8

Hecla

Winnipeg

Kenora

Oldest structure:

Concrete culvert

built in 1956

 

Oldest structure:

Concrete culvert

built in 1952

 

Winnipeg

15

15

10

10

5

5

0

0

1900

1924

1948

1972

1996

1900

1924

1948

1972

1996

 

Highway 1 (West)

Average structure age:

45

 

Highway 16

Average structure age:

50.8

Sask.

Sask.

Oldest structure:

Concrete culvert

built in 1918

 

Oldest structure:

Concrete culvert

built in 1954

 

Portage la Prairie

Winnipeg

15

15

10

10

5

5

0

0

1900

1924

1948

1972

1996

1900

1924

1948

1972

1996

Structures over 45 years old

Structures under 45 years old

 

Highway 59 (South)

Average structure age:

30.2

Oldest structure:

Timber bridge, built in 1959

 

Winnipeg

United States

15 Bridges built

10

5

0

1900

1924

1948

1972

1996

 

Highway 75

Average structure age:

31.8

Winnipeg

Oldest structure:

Steel culvert

built in 1949

 

United States

15

10

5

0

1900

1924

1948

1972

1996

 

Highway 59 (North)

Average structure age:

35.9

Hillside Beach

Oldest structure:

Steel girder bridge

built in 1961

 

Winnipeg

15

10

5

0

1900

1924

1948

1972

1996

 

Highway 100 and 101 (Perimeter)

Average structure age:

36.3

Oldest structure:

Steel culvert

built in 1950

 

Winnipeg

15

10

5

0

1900

1924

1948

1972

1996

 

Highway 8

Average structure age:

41.4

Hecla

Oldest structure:

Concrete culvert

built in 1956

 

Winnipeg

15

10

5

0

1900

1924

1948

1972

1996

 

Highway 1 (East)

Average structure age:

42.8

Winnipeg

Kenora

Oldest structure:

Concrete culvert

built in 1952

 

15

10

5

0

1900

1924

1948

1972

1996

 

Highway 1 (West)

Average structure age:

45

Sask.

Oldest structure:

Concrete culvert

built in 1918

 

Winnipeg

15

10

5

0

1900

1924

1948

1972

1996

 

Highway 16

Average structure age:

50.8

Sask.

Oldest structure:

Concrete culvert

built in 1954

 

Portage la Prairie

15

10

5

0

1900

1924

1948

1972

1996

Most common structure types

Province's highway spending

Capital spending on highways dropped to $350 million in the 2018-19 budget. "Even if
 we were to choose to make no further capital investment in our highways and bridges," the budget stated, "we
 would still be spending over $450 million annually for years to come, just to pay for the decisions of the past," referring to the previous Selinger government.

Our oldest bridge

...Alright, maybe not the oldest, since we don't know the age of all the structures, but it's the oldest bridge with a known build year. This woooden span over Pipestone Creek in the province's southwest pocket is the oldest bridge in the inventory, built in 1913 and last inspected in 2016.

About the data

Manitoba's structure inventory was obtained through a freedom of information request in the spring of 2018. The Free Press has shared the spreadsheet on Github. Year data displayed does not include structures with a build year listed as "0," which denotes the year is unknown. Data does not include structures maintained by municipalities or other government bodies. Budget data taken from provincial budget documents.

The Winnipeg Free Press invites you to share your opinion on this story in a letter to the editor. A selection of letters to the editor are published daily.

To submit a letter:
• fill out the form on this page, or
• email letters@freepress.mb.ca, or
• mail Letters to the Editor, 1355 Mountain Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R2X 3B6.

Letters must include the writer’s full name, address, and a daytime phone number. Letters are edited for length and clarity.