Spring has sprung, MPI claims have riz, drivers wonder where road is Public insurer hit with 324 pothole-damage reports in March, six times the number a year earlier

Manitoba motorists who crawled through a never-ending winter struggling to see over skyscraping piles of snow while navigating deep, icy ruts are now dealing with catastrophically crumbling roads revealed by the long-awaited spring melt.

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Manitoba motorists who crawled through a never-ending winter struggling to see over skyscraping piles of snow while navigating deep, icy ruts are now dealing with catastrophically crumbling roads revealed by the long-awaited spring melt.

Manitoba Public Insurance recorded 324 pothole-related claims in March, nearly six times as many as the 56 claimed in March 2021. The total number last year was 549; there had been 380 from January to March 2022.

Norwood resident Susie Penner’s compact car became one of April’s victims about a week-and-a-half ago. She was driving north on Archibald Street near Provencher Boulevard and moved as far to the middle of the road as she could safely do so in order to avoid a large puddle along the curb.

“I just felt my car slam down,” said Penner, 42. “It felt like I hit a sinkhole — ‘thud.’”

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS City crews have filled approximately 23,000 potholes since early April.

The impact blew out both passenger-side winter tires that she purchased last year.

“I couldn’t even change to a spare tire — my car was completely undriveable,” she said.

Penner learned of the potholes along Archibald via a Facebook group earlier that day. The problem was on her mind when she was behind the wheel, doing her best to give the curb a wide berth.

But it wasn’t wide enough.

Crews have filled approximately 23,000 potholes since early April, a city spokesperson said Wednesday. The focus is on main routes first, followed by bus routes and collector streets and then residential roads.

“The number of potholes we see on city streets is proportional to how wet the road conditions are.” – City spokesperson

Though potholes are a regular feature of Winnipeg springs, the city said there are, surprisingly, fewer potholes this year compared to 2021, due to delayed freeze-thaw cycles that didn’t begin until March, more than a month later than last year.

“That said, the number of potholes we see on city streets is proportional to how wet the road conditions are,” the city spokesperson added.

A day after Ed Purvis popped a tire in a Ness Avenue pothole, the 74 year old returned to the scene to get a better look and discovered that had he driven that route one day later, he would have saved himself $200 in repairs.

The hole had been patched.

“I felt good because that meant that other people weren’t slamming into it,” Purvis said.

The St. James resident’s 2001 Toyota Camry sustained a bent rim and a ruined tire.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Ed Purvis's 2001 Toyota Camry sustained a bent rim and a ruined tire from a Ness Avenue pothole.

“I knew I had blown the tire as soon as I came out of the hole,” he said. “I had some traffic beside me, so I couldn’t avoid hitting it.”

Steve Marois, head mechanic at Giardino International Auto and Tire Center in Transcona, said newer, high-end vehicles with aluminum rims are particularly vulnerable.

“If you hit a pothole pretty hard, you can ‘oval’ a rim… I’ve seen as far as cracked rims,” Marois said. “All sorts of issues because of potholes, really.”

Purvis won’t be filing a claim, but Penner had no choice because the damage was severe. Her vehicle was undriveable and had to be towed to MPI’s compound on Plessis Road, where it remains.

And then she had to deal with the time-consuming process of reporting the claim and trying rent a vehicle.

“You pay for loss-of-use insurance so that when things like this happen, you’ll have options,” she said. “I’ve spent hours on the phone trying to find a rental car.”

Many rental fleets were sold off due to lack of business during the pandemic, so vehicles are in short supply. Fed up with hunting for one that would be covered by her loss-of-use insurance, Penner became a Peg City Car Co-op member. She anticipates the car-share service, which has a lot near her apartment, will be convenient.

“I wasn’t sure if it would work for my lifestyle, but I’m about to find out,” she said. “Life needs to go on.”

Residents are encouraged to report large or deep potholes to the city by calling 311, or by filling out an online form on the city’s website. Each year, city crews fill an average of 170,000 potholes.

fpcity@freepress.mb.ca

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