One city councillor is pushing staff to accelerate its plans to rebuild Lorne Street, which he says is in “disgraceful” condition.
Ward 1 Coun. Joe Cimino said the bumpy and pock-marked roadway is a major artery, acting as a gateway east and west to the TransCanada highway. So why, he wonders, are other roads that aren’t in nearly as bad shape being done first?
“We have $3.9 million being set aside in 2014 to resurface Big Nickel (Mine) Road, which, I assume, does not have the same traffic as Lorne Street,” Cimino said at the Oct. 23 finance and administration committee meeting. “And I see that in 2016, we have $2.7 million set aside for Lorne Street, from Martindale to Logan only.
“Now, unless I’m incorrect, it would make sense to me, to benefit the most people possible, to take that $3.9 million and spend it in 2014 on Lorne Street, starting at Kelly Lake Road and heading east.”
Cimino said Big Nickel Road is in relatively good shape and is much less used by motorists than Lorne Street. So he can’t understand why no real work is being done on it until 2016.
“That roadway is in horrible condition,” he said. “My request … is let’s do Lorne Street before we do Big Nickel Road.”
His concerns were echoed by Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann, who questioned generally why some roads are worked on before others, even when they are in relatively good shape.
“This is a question I have hear a lot from residents,” Landry-Altmann said. “Why are some roads in such disrepair not being done, when roads that aren’t (nearly as bad) are being done?”
In response, Tony Cecutti, general manager of infrastructure, said choosing which road to do first is more complicated that simply picking the worst roads first.
“The state of deterioration of the road is only one factor,” Cecutti said. “The principle is the right dollars for the right project at the right time.”
So we have to deal with a Lorne Street that is horrible, because it’s too horrible? That makes no sense to me."
Ward 1 councillor
In an interview Oct. 25, Dave Shelsted, director of roads and transportation, explained further, using the analogy of a house with a leaky roof. When rebuilding roads, you can either do the ‘shave and pave’ – where surface asphalt is grinded off and the road repaved -- or rebuild the road entirely.
“And, obviously, the more you have to do to repair it, the more expensive it is,” he said. “If you compare it to a house, it’s less costly to replace a few shingles on the roof to stop a leak, than it is to continue to let the roof leak, damaging the walls and eventually the foundation. Then you have to replace the full house.”
In that analogy, Lorne Street is the ruined house, and Big Nickel Mine Road is the house with the leaky roof. If Big Nickel isn’t done first, it will end up in the same shape as Lorne Street.
“We’d have to do a much deeper repair and it would be that much more expensive,” Shelsted said.
Each year, the city spends about half of what it should to repair the city’s roads and has accumulated a $700-million deficit between the work it should be doing, and the work it can afford to do. So, the priority is spending scarce road repair dollars smartly.
“So you can either replace one house or repair 50 roofs,” Shelsted said. “So what you want to be doing is continually be repairing 50 roofs, so your overall road network stays in better condition.
“Generally, you pick the right time to repair the right road, and you get more roadwork done for the amount of money we have to spend.”
With such a huge infrastructure gap, Shelstead said it’s not difficult to find roadways that are in bad shape. That makes picking and choosing which ones to do first especially difficult.
“We’re trying to address (Lorne Street) as quickly as possible, but we have limited funds,” he said.
Cimino questioned that reasoning, saying a thoroughfare like Lorne should be a top priority regardless.
“So we have to deal with a Lorne Street that is horrible, because it’s too horrible? That makes no sense to me,” he said. “I’m telling you, Lorne Street is disgraceful.”
One factor that also contributes to the decline of city roads is heavy transport trucks travelling through the city centre to get west or east. The solution to that problem is the $120-million Maley Drive project, which would complete the ring around the city and allow heavy trucks to bypass main streets.
However, the city has been trying to get provincial and federal funding for the project for decades, and has even broken it down into smaller projects in hopes of attracting funding.
Mayor Marianne Matichuk said Oct. 23 that the fight for Maley is not being abandoned, even though the legislature is no longer in session and Premier Dalton McGuinty has resigned.
“We are working very hard right now with our provincial government and our federal government to get the Maley Drive project up and running,” she said. “We’re going to keep fighting. That’s all I can say. I just want everyone to know that. We’re fighting for Maley Drive.”