Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Streets mean, even to semis

Winnipeg roadways the worst in North America, a former trucker asserts

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For 15 years, Maureen Ellis hauled goods across Canada and the U.S. and never had to repair the front end of her truck.

That changed four years ago when the longtime driver decided to do short-haul trips within Winnipeg. Even though she drove her semi on the same route every day to anticipate exactly where to swerve to dodge the bump or pothole, Ellis said she started to notice cracks in the frame, damage to her cab and bending in one of the truck's steel bars.

She parked it for good last September after a mechanic told her it would cost $2,800 to fix the damage to the front end.

"It doesn't matter where you go, they're all bad streets," said Ellis, who now works for Dasher Courier.

"I will tell you I've driven almost every major highway and city in North America. Winnipeg is the crappiest. There's no good roads anywhere."

Winnipeg's 2012 road-condition data show that while half of city streets are in good shape, nearly one-fifth are laden with potholes and cracks. Nineteen per cent are in "poor" shape and need a complete overhaul to fix drainage problems, curbs or broken sections of pavement. Another 20 per cent are in a "fair" state, which means they require work and are on the verge of slipping into worse condition.

Residential and collector streets account for about two-thirds of all Winnipeg roadways, and 1,611 of them were in poor condition in 2012 -- up from 1,545 in 2011.

The road ratings were made public the same day Winnipeg politicians reiterated their pledge to spend more money this year to fix some of the worst residential streets in the city.

Winnipeg's capital and operating budgets, released last week, include a plan to raise property taxes 3.87 per cent and devote one per cent of the tax revenue -- $4.5 million -- to a reserve fund dedicated to fixing residential and collector streets, back lanes and sidewalks.

The city plans to increase property taxes one per cent a year in coming years to devote to fixing streets unless another level of government steps up to offer other revenue, such as a consumption tax or a rebate of the PST.

In total, Winnipeg will spend $36.6 million in 2013 to renew local streets.

Mayor Sam Katz said the city will be able fix 10 kilometres more of two-lane roads and 20 km of sidewalks with the money.

Councillors will work with city staff to identify which bad roads generate the most complaints in order to draft a final list of which streets will be a priority for road crews this year. Some of the worst stretches of roadway, such as Enniskillen Avenue between Powers and McGregor streets, may not be repaired right away so the city can fix them at the same time as upcoming water-main upgrades.

Rod Hamilton, a city asset management engineer, said the final list of what will be fixed in 2013 won't be ready for another few weeks.

"We're not going to address every street, back lane and sidewalk that's in poor condition. This is a long-term plan," Katz said.

Part of the challenge in addressing the backlog of roads in need of repair is that for every few stretches of road that are improved, a certain percentage of streets will slip into worse shape.

In 2012, 19 per cent of residential streets were in a "fair" state, up from 15 per cent the previous year.

Public works director Brad Sacher said the reality is street conditions worsen with age, and the goal is to repair streets in fair or good condition before they need more expensive reconstruction.

He said it's anticipated it will take 25 years with the additional funding to address the problem, noting there's no shortage of streets in poor condition.

"These streets are killing our trucks," Ellis said.

Rate your own street

Compare the city's street ratings in 2011 and 2012 in our online database at .

Do you agree with the city's rating for your street? Tell us what you think.

City street conditions

The city rates streets as New, Good, Fair or Poor.  Here's an overview of street ratings in 2012.

Data source: City of Winnipeg. Can't see the pie chart above? View it in Google Drive.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 18, 2013 B1


Updated on Friday, January 18, 2013 at 11:26 AM CST: adds fact box

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