Bridge Guardrail Heights

Res #: 16-04M
Number: 16
Year: 2004
Midterm: Yes
Expired: Yes
Responses Received: No
Departments: Saskatchewan Highways & Transportation

Resolution No. 16-04M

WHEREAS, the present height regulations for bridge guardrails are much too high to provide safe and easy passage for agricultural equipment when crossing; and

WHEREAS, bridge guardrails and equipment have been damaged creating liability issues for municipalities;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the SARM Board meet with the Department of Highways and Transportation and recommend that the standards be reviewed and amended to allow a minimum guardrail height of 17 inches or 43 centimeters.

Response from Honourable Maynard Sonntag, Minister of Highways and Transportation:

Safety is a priority at Saskatchewan Highways and Transportation. The department uses the CAN/CSA-S6-00, Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code, which is a national standard used to ensure a nation-wide level of safety for the travelling public. The minimum rail height of 680 mm specified in the Bridge Design Code was determined through crash tests to develop a minimum standard rail height that prevents vehicles from rolling over the railing. Each rural municipality is ultimately responsible for the care and maintenance of the bridges in its municipality.

While the rural municipality may chose to set the height of the bridge rail below the minimum height as required by the CAN/CSA-S6-00, the municipality would have to assume the increased liability resulting from collisions with a substandard bridge rail. Department officials would be pleased to discuss this matter with SARM or any rural municipality that has any further questions or concerns. They may be directed to contact Howard Yea, Director, Bridge Services at (306)787-4830 in Regina.

Response from SARM:

In response to Minister Soontag's invitation, representative from SARM met with officials from Saskatchewan Highways and Transportation. They advised that they are not prepared to amend their standard. This standard is based on the Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code, and Saskatchewan Highways and Transportation is not willing to depart from the same.

An RM can of course choose to lower the bridge rail heights if it wants to, however it must be aware of the risks of doing so. Should someone sustain injury or damage because of a substandard guardrail the fact that the rail height was below standard would be considered evidence of negligence in a subsequent civil action. Having said this, there may be situations where (i) the risk of a vehicle going off the road at the location is so low and (ii) the severity of the potential harm is so minimal, that a reduction in the bridge rail height could be justified. Each location would have to be assessed separately.

If a council does decide to reduce the bridge rail height at a particular location, they should document the decision, explaining why it was done. Also, the bridge rail height should only be reduced to the extent necessary. The bottom line is that it is up to council to decide what to do in each case. You must weigh the advantage to your ratepayers of the reduced bridge rail height, against the increased risks to those using the road.