Monday, May 8, 2017

If it ain't broke, actually fix it

The idiom “if it ain't broke, don't fix it” gets used a lot. It is used when people see something change that appeared to be working well. To uses another well-worn idiom, appearances are deceiving. This is especially the case when it comes to municipal infrastructure.

As municipal infrastructure gets older, the risk of infrastructure failure increases. For example, a watermain that is five years old is less likely to fail than a watermain that is 50 years old. Repairing a watermain that fails costs more money than replacing a watermain before it gets to the point of failure.

Emergency repair works is not only costlier, but it can interrupt the delivery of service. For example, Metro Vancouver needed to replace some old valves on the only regional watermain that services Langley City residents. Because they replaced the valves before they failed, the City was able to activate a backup connection to the Township’s water system, and there was no interruption of water service in the City.

Small but Timely Renewal Investments Save Money. Source: Building together – Guide for municipal asset management plans

Even with proper repair plans, at some point in the life of a piece of infrastructure, the cost of operating and repairing the infrastructure becomes higher than just replacing the infrastructure.

If a city is on the ball, patching roads as soon as cracks or potholes appear, the life of a road can be extended. Over time, more and more sections of road need to be repaired, and the subsurface of the road needs to be replaced. When the amount of time and cost to repair hit a certain level, it becomes less costly to replace the road.

A sports field might look perfectly fine, but the cost of maintaining it increases over time due to subsurface conditions. Many sports fields have drainage systems and lighting systems that over time deteriorate. Renewing a sports field will not only lower the cost of maintaining the field, but will make it more playable.

Over time, new technologies become available that create significant infrastructure operational savings. For example, LED streetlights last longer and cost less to operate than conventional streetlights. Replacing conventional streetlights with LED streetlights reduce operational costs, and extend the useful life of streetlights.

In Langley City, one of our main focuses is now on infrastructure renewal. You can see this in action with roads being renewed, streetlights being replaced, and sports fields being rejuvenated.

One of the key things to know is when to repair infrastructure to get the maximum benefits out of it. Replacing infrastructure too late is costly, and replacing infrastructure too early is also not wise.

Langley City will be developing an assets management policy to ensure that long-term funding is in place to operating, maintain, renew, and replace our infrastructure in a way that creates maximum benefit for our community.

So if you hear the expression, “if it ain't broke, don't fix it,” remember that it is always better to renew and replace municipal infrastructure before it deteriorates. It saves money and ensures continual service.

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