One of the issues that dominates phone calls to my office each spring is the condition of gravel back lanes.
This issue is particularly important in St. Vital ward because we have more than one-fifth (21.3%) of the 87 kilometres of gravel back lanes in the city. Most of the gravel back lanes in the St. Vital ward are more than 50 years old, and are overwhelmingly located north of Bishop Grandin Boulevard. My own house, built around 1962, has a typical St. Vital gravel lane, used by most of the houses to access rear garages, and to service garbage and recycling pickup.
I get a lot of angry calls about the state of these gravel back lanes — with descriptions like "car-eating potholes" and "looks like it was bombed." I would love to pave or put new gravel down in all of the lanes, but the city budget for work of this sort is limited.
The city does not pave these lanes, but will work with residents who are interested in funding a "local improvement" to pave their laneway. In short, the homeowners who back onto a gravel lane are given the opportunity to sign a petition, and if certain condition are met, the city will accept the petition and schedule the lane for paving. But, and this is a large ‘but,’ the residents must pay for the paving either in a lump sum (which can be around $6,000 per household) or by applying the amount owing to their property tax payments, with interest, over 20 years.
The city is funding $1 million per year city-wide to upgrade certain back lanes with new gravel and drainage. Over the past two years, several gravel lanes in St. Vital ward have been improved, including lanes in the Elm Park area, Clonard/Stranmillis, and Havelock.
In April of 2011 (before my election) city council directed staff to develop a new gravel lanes policy with recommendations on maintenance and upgrading, as the current policy has been in place since 1988. I recently used Question Period at council to ask what had happened to this study. Staff now advise that they will be presenting the new policy this September. I look forward to a debate on how best to upgrade and maintain our gravel lanes, and I will fight for more funding to address this longstanding headache for many St. Vital homeowners.