How to Get More STIP funding for your County

Alberta Transportation’s Strategic Transportation Infrastructure Program, or STIP for short, started in 2017 and combined several funding sources into one.  There are four components:

  1. Community Airport Program ($2 million)
  2. Local Road Bridge Program ($16 million)
  3. Resource Road Program ($6.5 million)
  4. Local Municipal Initiatives ($5 million)

In this article we investigate the projects that have been approved for funding within the last year of the program (2018) to determine what the most important funding criteria has been and if there is any patterns that can assist with future STIP funding applications.  We rank the projects according to the same ranking criteria being used by Alberta Transportation, and attempt to determine why some projects received funding and others did not.

We have also talked to the Alberta Transportation representatives who have been in a decision making role on the funding recipients.

Eligibility Criteria

First, let’s rehash the publicly stated eligibility criteria for STIP projects (copied from the STIP web page):

  • basic need
  • safety
  • functionality
  • impacts on the overall transportation network
  • the current condition of the infrastructure
  • total traffic volumes
  • truck traffic volumes
  • cost effectiveness and efficiency
  • collaboration or partnership with industry or other municipalities or Métis Settlements
  • economic, social, environmental or innovation benefits
  • use of alternate sources to fund the project (federal or private investment)

Further down, six ranking criteria are identified:

  1. condition
  2. functionality
  3. risk of failure
  4. risk of delay
  5. local impact (including length of detour)
  6. local priority

Local Road Bridge Program

Although there are four parts to the program, we will look in detail at the Local Road Bridge Program because bridge sites contain regular inspection reports that contain a wealth of information regarding the existing condition, need, safety, functionality, and so forth.  The other three areas are significantly more difficult to quantify.

Firstly, the list of 2018 projects to get funding approval is:

# Municipality Grant Description Grant Amount
1 Buffalo Lake BF 85327 – Bridge Pipe Replacement $946,179
2 County of Barrhead BF 78062 – Bridge Pipe Replacement $307,500
3 Beaver County BF 1519 – Bridge Replacement $714,000
4 Beaver County BF 13923 – Bridge Replacement $258,375
5 Big Lakes County BF 76894 – Bridge Culvert Replacement $525,000
6 Big Lakes County BF 80690 – Bridge Culvert Replacement $431,250
7 Cardston County BF 1498 – Bridge Rehabilitation $52,070
8 Clearwater County BF 81567 – Bridge Replacement $311,250
9 Cypress County BF 72442 – Bridge Replacement $220,500
10 Cypress County BF 70847 – Bridge Rehabilitation $342,000
11 Cypress County BF 707 – Bridge Rehabilitation $342,000
12 Cypress County BF 500 – Bridge Rehabilitation $342,000
13 County of Grande Prairie No. 1 BF 70820 – Culvert Replacement $257,200
14 Lac la Biche County BF 294 – Bridge Pipe Replacement $146,250
15 Lac Ste. Anne County BF 70269 – Bridge Pipe Replacement $402,000
16 Leduc County BF 537 – Bridge Repairs $20,250
17 Leduc County BF 9652 – Bridge Pipe Replacement $342,000
18 Leduc County BF 72211 – Bridge Repairs $6,750
19 Lethbridge County BF 79825 – Bridge Replacement $690,000
20 County of Minburn BF 6827 – Bridge Replacement $309,000
21 Mountain View County BF 13585 – Bridge Rehabilitation $45,000
22 Mountain View County BF 2180 – Bridge Replacement $187,500
23 Mountain View County BF 304 – Bridge Rehabilitation $45,000
24 Parkland County BF 70364 – Bridge Pipe Replacement $270,000
25 Red Deer County BF 453 – Bridge Replacement $414,916
26 Rocky View County BF 75859 – Bridge Culvert Replacement $444,000
27 Saddle Hills County BF 74437 – Bridge Culvert Replacement $592,500
28 Saddle Hills County BF 78845 – Bridge Culvert Replacement $311,250
29 Saddle Hills County BF 86168 – Bridge Culvert Replacement $210,000
30 County of Two Hills BF 9958 – Bridge Replacement $491,250
31 County of Warner BF 1753 – Bridge Replacement $677,250
32 Westlock County BF 808 – Bridge Repairs $6,750
33 Westlock County BF 73087 – Bridge Repairs $96,000
34 Westlock County BF 75282 – Bridge Repairs $257,250
35 Elizabeth Metis Settlement BF 79634 – Bridge Pipe Replacement $262,125
36 Elizabeth Metis Settlement BF 76629 – Bridge Pipe Replacement $521,625
37 Fishing Lake Metis Settlement BF 74097 – Bridge Pipe Replacement $702,000
38 Fishing Lake Metis Settlement BF 85326 – Bridge Pipe Replacement $583,763
39 M.D. of Bonnyville BF 72618 – Concrete Bridge Replacement $393,750
40 M.D. of Lesser Slave River BF 78628 – Bridge Pipe Replacement $270,750
41 M.D. of Peace BF 13840 – Culvert Replacement $202,500
42 M.D. of Pincher Creek BF 671 – Bridge Culvert Replacement $344,795
43 M.D. of Taber BF 80046 – Bridge Culvert Replacement $183,195
44 M.D. of Taber BF 80155 – Bridge Replacement $540,000
45 M.D. of Willow Creek BF 7799 – Bridge Culvert Replacement $667,350
46 M.D. of Willow Creek BF 7800 – Bridge Culvert Replacement $721,350

 

A total of 29 out of 63 municipalities received funding (46%), which leaves 34 that didn’t.  Of those that did, 11 received funding for multiple projects (17%).  This compares to the previous year where 34 municipalities received funding (54%) and 16 municipalities (25%) received funding for multiple projects.

This would suggest that the $16 million available is not spread out very evenly, which suggests that it is important to make a strong application.

For this analysis, we attempted to mimic the ranking procedures used by Alberta Transportation to make a funding decision.  This involved the same six ranking criteria used by the four regional infrastructure managers, and we ranked them each on a 1 – 5 scale (1 = highest priority, 5 = lowest priority):

  • Condition
    The existing condition of the bridge identifies the existing condition of the bridge and therefore, the basic need.  Naturally, the worst bridges should be replaced (or repaired) first.  A “1” ranking in the BIM system (imminent danger) obtains a 1 out of 5 rating, Generally, but not always, 2 ratings in the BIM system (urgent priority for repair/replacement) got a 2 out of 5 rating and 3 and higher in the BIM system (medium priority for repair/replacement) got a 3 or higher out of 5 rating.
  • Functionality
    This criteria determines whether the bridge is carrying out its function safely.  Generally, most bridges and culverts are performing their function for the travelling public even if they are in poor condition, but issues such as culverts that are too short or too small, narrow bridges and safety problems created a higher ranking in this category.  The information was obtained from the latest BIM reports.
  • Risk of Failure
    This category outlines the importance of the road, and therefore the consequences of the bridge or culvert being out of service.  We looked up each site on the map and ranked what we thought the importance of the road was, from 1 to 5.  However, it is unlikely that Alberta Transportation did this for their ranking (especially all four infrastructure managers) and the ranking was likely obtained from the AADT specified in the application and verbiage in the Project Benefits section of the application
  • Risk of Delay
    The consequences of delaying the project.  This criteria appears to be very similar to the previous one, however in some cases the project is not urgent and can be delayed with little consequence.  Bridge repair projects are generally much smaller and provide good value relative to the bridge’s condition.  In this category these projects can be up-rated.
  • Local Impact
    The economic benefit provided by the structure, and the development potential in the area.
  • Local Priority
    We did not rank this criteria, because we did not have any knowledge of the priority assigned by each municipality to the project.  Without the benefit of seeing the applications, this could not be adequately ranked.

Rankings

The six criteria ratings are as follows:

# Bridge File Amount Condition Functionality Risk of Failure Risk of Delay Local Impact Average
1 85327 $947,179 3 1 3 2 1 2.0
2 78062 $307,500 2 2 3 2 2 2.2
3 1519 $714,000 3 3 3 2 4 3.0
4 13923 $258,375 2 3 4 4 4 3.4
5 76894 $525,000 2 1 4 4 3 2.8
6 80690 $431,250 1 1 3 2 3 2.0
7 1498 $52,070 1 1 3 3 3 2.2
8 81567 $311,250 3 2 2 2 3 2.4
9 72442 $220,500 1 1 2 3 2 1.8
10 70847 $342,000 2 3 1 1 2 1.8
11 707 $342,000 1 1 4 5 4 3.0
12 500 $342,000 3 2 1 1 1 1.6
13 70820 $257,200 2 4 4 4 4 3.6
14 294 $146,250 1 1 1 1 1 1.0
15 70269 $402,000 2 2 2 3 2 2.2
16 537 $20,250 1 2 2 2 2 1.8
17 9652 $342,000 2 2 4 4 4 3.2
18 72211 $6,750 1 2 4 3 4 2.8
19 79825 $690,000 2 2 4 4 3 3.0
20 6827 $309,000 1 1 4 4 4 2.8
21 13585 $45,000 2 2 3 2 3 2.4
22 2180 $187,500 2 2 5 5 4 3.6
23 304 $45,000 2 2 2 2 2 2.0
24 70364 $270,000 1 2 3 3 3 2.4
25 453 $414,916 2 1 4 3 3 2.8
26 75859 $444,000 2 2 4 4 4 3.2
27 74437 $592,500 1 1 3 3 3 2.2
28 78845 $311,250 1 1 4 4 3 2.6
29 86168 $210,000 3 2 4 3 4 3.2
30 9958 $491,250 1 1 4 4 4 2.8
31 1753 $677,250 2 2 4 3 4 3.0
32 808 $6,750 2 4 3 3 3 3.0
33 73087 $96,000 2 4 4 4 4 3.6
34 75282 $257,250 1 2 5 4 5 3.4
35 79634 $262,125 1 1 2 2 2 1.6
36 76629 $521,625 1 1 1 1 2 1.2
37 74097 $702,000 1 2 1 1 1 1.2
38 85326 $583,763 3 2 1 2 2 2.0
39 72618 $393,750 3 2 4 3 4 3.2
40 78628 $270,750 1 1 2 2 2 1.6
41 13840 $202,500 2 3 4 4 4 3.4
42 671 $344,795 2 2 3 2 3 2.4
43 80046 $183,195 2 2 3 3 4 2.8
44 80155 $540,000 3 4 4 4 4 3.8
45 7799 $667,350 3 3 2 3 2 2.6
46 7800 $721,350 1 2 4 3 3 2.6

 

Conclusions

Although it is difficult to ascertain how the successful projects fared against those not accepted, there are a few stand-out conclusions that pop out.

It is unlikely that the decision makers consulted maps, BIM inspection reports, or the presence of local industry or development.  If the information was not contained on the application form, it probably wasn’t considered.  Therefore, we look in depth at the form and determine what the major items are.  We note that the the Local Road Bridge Application form contains largely administrative items with the exception of four key pieces of information.

STIP application top half

These four items represent the “first impression” to the decision makers.  Although it is likely that they read the 3 – 5 pages of verbiage for the approximately 100 applications they received, this form was probably reviewed in detail.  In all likelihood the 100 application forms ended up together “in a pile” and played a significant part in the ranking process.  Hence, the above four variables stand out prominently and therefore should scrutinized as to how they translate into ranking.

  • Expected Remaining Life, Structural Condition Rating (SCR), and Sufficiency Rating (SR) all identify the “existing condition,” which is the first of ranking criteria.
  • The AADT is the traffic volume on the roadway, and it translates directly into the “risk of failure,” the third ranking criteria.
  • The Detour Length also translates in the “risk of failure,” the third ranking criteria.

In addition, our ranking process identified that the categories are not completely independent of each other.  In particular:

  • The second criteria is closely related to the first.  Since most bridges and culverts are functioning, the urgency of their existing condition governs their functionality, with some exceptions for safety issues, narrow bridges, road alignment issues, and so forth.
  • The fourth and fifth decision criteria (“risk of delay” and “local impact”) are closely related to the third (“risk of failure”).  In fact, it is difficult to find many differentiating factors between them.

For both of these reasons, the ranking process skews heavily toward the first and third criteria, which are “existing condition” and “risk of failure.”  In fact, this confirms our suspicions from our experiences dealing with this program and talking to the decision makers.

With that said, our conclusions from this analysis are as follows:

  1. The existing condition is extremely important.  The application cannot game the numbers on the application form (SCR, SR, and Remaining Life) as they come from the BIM inspection system.  If the BIM form does not contain “2” ratings, the application will probably be rejected, although there is no harm in submitting many applications – this is what many County’s and M.D.’s have done and some were accepted without 2 ratings.
  2. The risk of failure is the second major criteria.  The application should make sure it adequately describes the consequences of bridge/culvert failure in the application form.
  3. Of these two main criteria, the first one is more important – existing condition, since there were many projects approved that appear to be on minor local roads with little traffic and short detour lengths.  In contrast, there are few that are not in serious condition.
  4. Projects with additional funding sources or alignment with other government priorities is an added bonus that translates directly into the Local Impact criteria and hence these items should receive extra attention.

Good luck on your STIP Local Road Bridge Applications.  Roseke Engineering Ltd. provides assistance with the preparation of STIP applications and can help improve your chances at receiving funding.  If you would like to chat about how we can help you get more STIP funding, please call Bernie at (403) 942-6170.

 

 
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