One of the most critical concerns in our Ward is the need to improve the conditions of many of our roads. In total, Osgoode Ward has approximately 523KMs of paved and about 116KMs of gravel roadways. It is indeed quite a large area to cover. However, there is no question that since amalgamation, the overall condition of our roads has been allowed to continually deteriorate by the city.
Root Causes of Problem
There are several root causes of the problem that I can certainly point out. The first and most obvious one is that Osgoode Ward has constantly received “low priority” status in the city’s planning. Clearly, roads in the urban and suburban communities have been given a much higher priority according to the city’s master plan. We have constantly seen our rural roads being done in a rush late in the road work season.
Inconsistency and Neglect
In addition, one of the most obvious problems has been that we have had a councillor that will not stand up for us and provide the necessary input to the city on this file. Since road maintenance is one of the very few “core” services that the city provides for us we should definitely not have to get “down on our knees” to have these issues resolved. This is an obvious area where our tax money should come back to us. Furthermore, a consistent, clear and concise plan is required.
To highlight this lack of consistency and neglect, there are a few facts that must be put before you to consider. In 2010, an election year, approximately $9.4 million was spent to upgrade our road infrastructure. However, in the following year 2011, only $6.1 million was spent. Moreover, in the ensuing years the amounts that were allocated continued to “spiral” downwards to only $4 million being spent on our road infrastructure in 2013.
Suddenly in 2014, another election year, we are slated to get about $12 million of road improvements in the Ward. Why have we not had at least this amount allocated for road infrastructure in Osgoode Ward every year? May I respectfully suggest that you have had a councillor that used our dire need for road maintenance as a “sham” to buy votes. Please consider the fact that during the last election, about $2.5 million was spent on 8th Line Road complete with ornate light standards. While, at the same time, other areas like York’s Corners Road sat in total disrepair with nothing being spent on them. Obviously, the clearly manipulated plans always emphasized where one could get the most political “brownie points”.
Change the Approach Taken
In addition, there definitely has to be a change in the approach the city takes to road infrastructure in several ways. Far too often, the condition of the roads, full of cracks and potholes, is passed off by councillors and city officials with the rather weak statement that it is “due to the bad winter we had”. Clearly, these individuals are devoid of much insight into this issue. There are several other factors that come into play including the quality of paving materials used, the contracting company used to do the job and also the timing of the project.
I should point out here that I have an insight and knowledge of the Osgoode Ward roads like no other candidate could ever claim. For several years I worked on the roads during the summer month for the Regional government and also part of the City takeover in the 2000’s. During this period I literally went to each and every corner of this city, as I painted all the stop bars and cross-walks. I also walked many miles pre-marking newly paved roads for the large painting truck. Therefore, I definitely have some perspectives that I can offer as I saw what went on with regard to road work.
As an excellent example I can offer for your consideration is the current condition of River Road. I pre-marked River Road (RR#19) in the section from Flag Station Road to the curve just before Mitch Owen’s Road in Manotick in 2003. I would appreciate it if you could look at the pictures of the current condition of this major road. This area of roadway has stood up extremely well for over 11 years due to the higher quality of materials used, superior contractor paving company and the time of year it was done! Contrast this to Rideau Valley Drive (RR#3 from RR6) into Manotick.
The pictures attached include the area near Miller’s Farm, a roadway that was done a few years later. Also, compare this to pictures of Mitch Owen’s Road in front of Spratt Road, which was done as recently as 2009. In each case, I could even tell as the paving material was going down that the paving material was inferior, the company used took less time and care while they were doing the job. In addition, in these cases, it was done later in the season.
Furthermore, my observations can be substantiated by Simon Hesp, a Queen’s University professor. As Hesp points out, far too often in municipalities like Ottawa our roads are being paved using asphalt with “inferior additives” such as engine oil and oil residues. As he suggests, we should use a much better quality asphalt. Better asphalt would cost only 10 to 15 per cent more, but will add several years to a road’s life cycle. (prof has crude answer to potholes)
Hesp Research Group has been working with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation in building and monitoring test sites on provincial roads. There are more than 30 test sites throughout the province, and these pavement trials can be checked online at hespresearchgroup.ca For example, there is a 10-year-old test section in Timmins that is still “in very good shape.” The City of Kingston has been using the higher quality asphalt for the past five years and the reconstructed roads and overlays have no cracks or potholes to this point.
Therefore, may I suggest, if the city of Ottawa would spend the money initially on better quality materials they would greatly reduce all the subsequent costs such as for the road crews fixing the potholes and all the cold patch material used. Even of greater significance is the fact that there would be less damage to the vehicles of Ottawa motorists and far less claims for damage to the city taxpayers. As your councillor, I would be “relentless” in my efforts to get the city staff and council to listen to these facts!
In summary, the transportation master plan has to be “refocused” to reflect the realities of the size and condition of road infrastructure in this city. There is no question that due to neglect and poor articulation by our representatives the city has had absolutely no understanding of the importance of this issue to areas such as ours. They have to stop the ad hoc patch-work approach to road infrastructure offered to us to this point. It has always appeared as if they are behaving as if they are “plugging a dyke”.
Clearly, there should be a step – by – step master plan for dealing with our Ward and all others over time, not this “stop gap” approach. Far too often you see paving being ripped up as some other aspect of infrastructure is being done. A current example I can point out, is the fact that some culverts are being replaced on Stagecoach road in 2014, but there are no plans to resurface the road. Obviously, another patch job is planned despite the fact that large parts of this road from Snake Island to Mitch Owens are a mess.
Our road planning should be done in a “regular rotation”, say a 10 – year cycle. Then, proper planning for all other road infrastructure could be allocated such as drainage, ditching, culvert replacement, wiring, lighting and so on. Furthermore, this “rotation” of our entire road infrastructure should be done using top construction companies, using high quality materials at the appropriate time of the year for “optimum durability”.
Beyond the suggested changes in the approach taken to our road infrastructure by the city, I would suggest the following improvements in road safety:
- As each future new roadway surfacing project is done in rural areas the paving of side-panels or bike lanes (approx. 5 feet ) should be mandated and integrated as a “necessary part” of road infrastructure. Clearly marked with “no passing to the right” signage. This would greatly improve bike and vehicle safety on rural roads and also allow for safer stopping for emergencies including cell phone use. In addition, this would mean that any future edge cracking would occur along the side-panel not at the direct edge of the roadway.
- Should insist that paving companies provide a very “gentle slop” away to the edge of the paved area for proper water drainage off the roadway.
- Improve lighting along major roadways – such as Bank Street.
- Traffic control in dangerous areas – stop lights at some 4 – way intersections, safer crossing at school zones. I should point out that I do not believe in the use of round – abouts. The costs between stop lights and round – abouts are very similar, however, the contrast in the impacts felt by many are often not highlighted. My concern is always for the sight-impaired, children and elderly when they attempt to cross round-about areas.
- Greater traffic speed enforcement must be insisted upon, especially along school zones.
- Flashing lights and proper cross-walks in open roadways for safer crossing of snowmobiles.
- Improve signage – at some intersections street names are barely visible until you get there. Also there has been an obvious reduction in the upkeep and posting of various signs such as speed limits, this must be improved!
Clearly, these suggests are just a starting point to attempt to improve road infrastructure and safety in our rural areas and also in the city.