InfraGuide: A Canadian experience, eh!

Tim Haynes
Engineering Assistant
City of Regina, Saskatchewan
Member, APWA Transportation Committee

The Guide is good! The Guide is your friend...let it be your guide! The first time I heard those words I thought, "What a concept...how can I learn more?" This also raised the question: "Why a National Infrastructure Guide?"

It is no secret that municipal infrastructure is underfunded and decaying at an alarming rate. Our aging systems reflect decades of infrequent inspection and maintenance. We face an increasing demand for more and better roads and we cannot afford substandard design or installation. The solution is not solely more money. Our Canadian municipalities now spend $12 to $15 billion annually on infrastructure.

The National Guide to Sustainable Municipal Infrastructure's (InfraGuide) solution is to change the way we plan, design, and manage infrastructure. Only by doing so can municipalities meet new demands within a fiscally responsible and environmentally sustainable framework, while preserving the quality of life we all currently enjoy.

InfraGuide is both a national network of practitioners, researchers and governments, and a growing collection of published best practice documents for use by decision-makers and technical personnel in the public and private sectors. Based on Canadian experience and research, the reports set out the best practices to support sustainable municipal infrastructure decisions and actions in five key areas: 1) municipal roads and sidewalks; 2) potable water; 3) storm and wastewater; 4) decision making and investment planning; and 5) environmental protocols.

InfraGuide creation is made possible through $12.5 million from Infrastructure Canada; in-kind contributions; technical resources; the collaborative effort of municipal practitioners, researchers and other experts; and a host of volunteers throughout the country. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) is leading the project in partnership with the National Research Council Canada (NRC). By gathering and synthesizing the best Canadian experience and knowledge, InfraGuide helps municipalities get the maximum return on every dollar they spend on infrastructure, while being mindful of the social and environmental implications of their decisions.

In just three years, InfraGuide has released a score of documents outlining best practices in areas ranging from timely preventive maintenance of municipal roads, to defining and planning municipal infrastructure needs. All 29 best practice documents are available online and in print at www.infraguide.ca.

From British Columbia to Newfoundland, municipalities across Canada are signing on to the national project designed to help them face the challenge of infrastructure renewal. The City of Regina, where I work as an Engineering Assistant for Roadways Operations, was the first municipality to endorse the National Guide to Sustainable Municipal Infrastructure in November 2002. Since then, the Roadways and Traffic Division of the Engineering and Works Department at the City of Regina has undertaken an initiative to formally establish and fully document the programs and activities in the major areas of its mandate. These major areas are the concrete maintenance, asphalt maintenance, alley maintenance, street sweeping and winter road maintenance programs.

There has been a fundamental commitment by both the City of Regina and its Roadways and Traffic Division to utilize the principles and "best practices" of InfraGuide as the foundation and general approach strategy. By doing so, we gain an authoritative, well-recognized and "industry standard" support for our methodology in developing and operating in these program areas. To date, many of the "best practices" published have been focused on the Decision Making and Investment Planning topics which are intended to support the practices and efforts of elected officials and senior administration. Moreover, these strategic best practices have provided the framework for our initiatives, and have provided good insights into developing our operational approach to the complex issue of managing infrastructure in the face of declining asset condition and continuing funding restraints.

Although we are just at the beginning stages of the initiative, starting with concrete maintenance, the following best practices have been particularly useful: Planning and Defining Municipal Infrastructure Needs; Developing Indicators and Benchmarks; Developing Levels of Service; and Priority Planning and Budgeting Process for Pavement Maintenance and Rehabilitation.

Since the City of Regina's endorsement of InfraGuide in November 2002, another 29 municipalities of all sizes and from all regions have put resolutions through councils to give InfraGuide their official support. This is InfraGuide's greatest strength—to bring together practical knowledge of Canadian municipalities and technical resources from all facets of the industry.

If you have any interest in infrastructure, you need InfraGuide. Municipal managers and operators (or practitioners), elected municipal officials, senior municipal administrators, and federal, provincial, and territorial governments are all front-line users of InfraGuide.

InfraGuide will also be of interest to the private sector, professional associations, researchers, educators, and others whose work intersects with municipalities' efforts to improve infrastructure.

The bottom line is this: InfraGuide helps municipalities identify needs, evaluate solutions, and plan long-term strategies for improved infrastructure performance at the best return on every dollar invested.

InfraGuide's continued success depends on its ability to continue to build a strong, broad-based network of experience and knowledge. I would recommend that if an opportunity presents itself to become involved with this nationwide consolidation of knowledge network, that you support InfraGuide by becoming a part of the process to develop the best practices and benefit from the wealth of knowledge that has been gathered from across Canada.

Tim Haynes is a past president of APWA's Saskatchewan Chapter and a current member of the Transportation Technical Committee. He can be reached at (306) 777-7659 or at thaynes@regina.ca.

Municipal officials who want to learn more about the project can contact InfraGuide staff through the website at www.infraguide.ca or by calling toll-free (866) 330-3350. Sylvain Boudreau, Technical Manager for InfraGuide, will be a speaker at the APWA International Public Works Congress and Exposition in Atlanta. His session is on Sunday, September 12, at 2:00 p.m.

Editor's Note: The following publications are excellent resources in the area of traffic calming: Canadian Guide to Traffic Calming; Traffic Calming Primer; and Traffic Calming Retrofitting Existing Neighborhoods. All of these publications can be ordered online at www.apwa.net/bookstore or call the Member Services Hotline at (800) 848-APWA, ext. 3560.