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Finding a solution for St. Boniface’s gravel back lanes

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Unsightly gravel back lanes can be a real headache for many residents in St. Boniface. I get many calls throughout the year with concerns ranging from dust to vehicle damages.

In fact, 102 kilometres of gravel back lanes can be found within the city, and approximately 19% are located in St. Boniface. These lanes also generate hundreds of 311 service calls every year.

Currently, the only way to repair or repave a back lane is by getting 60% of residents to support a local improvement initiative, which have financial ramifications on property taxes. If residents don’t buy in, the lanes don’t get repaired.

But more needs to be done to alleviate the financial burden placed on residents.

While we are currently awaiting a policy from the administration for addressing the plight of gravel back lanes across the city, short-term solutions should be addressed.

Recently, I and Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital) called to double funds from $170,000 to $340,000 for gravel back lanes in the 2014 city budget. Until a new policy is adopted, these extra funds could help with routine maintenance like regrading, upgrading drainage and installing new gravel.

In the meantime, when the proposed policy is presented at Public Works on Oct. 1, I will be making the following suggestions:

• We need to do a cost-benefit analysis of the current program of maintenance and repair versus a paving alternative (to pave 102 kilometres would cost $137 million).

• Explore innovation solutions with sound financial investment opportunities, for example: cost-share the construction of pavement.

• Identify immediate short-term solutions by asking for an increase in maintenance dollars for back lanes.

It is important to put all of this within the context of our wider existing infrastructure deficiencies, which includes needed repairs to regional and residential streets, bridges, sidewalks and back lanes. On average, the city should be spending $250 million more every year on infrastructure, in addition to what is already being spent.

In St. Boniface, gravel back lanes are a real concern and the current situation cannot be maintained for much longer. The financial implications for residents need to be fair and viable for both past and current local improvement projects throughout St. Boniface.

If you have any comments or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 204-986-5206 or by email at dvandal@winnipeg.ca

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