Construction delays loom in sodden conditions, soggy forecast Start of road, home building season already weeks behind, industry associations say

A group representing Manitoba’s road builders is concerned an abundance of spring moisture could shorten the 2022 heavy-construction season, as the province braces for another rainstorm and more flooding.

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A group representing Manitoba’s road builders is concerned an abundance of spring moisture could shorten the 2022 heavy-construction season, as the province braces for another rainstorm and more flooding.

The season typically gets underway in mid-April, but this year’s start could be pushed back to mid-May in places if the ground is too wet, said Chris Lorenc, president of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association.

“This is very unusual for us. The last three, four years we would be busy by the end of April and well into it at the beginning of May,” Lorenc said Thursday. “That won’t be the case this year. There is a real risk if we get more rain and it stays in place that it will have an impact and delay construction work. It could compress the season.”

With a number of big construction projects on the horizon, the industry is monitoring the path of a Colorado low weather system that is expected to push water levels higher with more rain this weekend.

Municipalities in southern Manitoba are already dealing with overland flooding after a barrage of storms dumped large amounts of snow and rain.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS PR 200, north of St. Adolfe that has water from the Red River spilling across the roadway slowing traffic down to one lane. April 27th, 2022

Significant river flooding is expected in some basins, including the Red.

“We’re nervous about the flood and for people who will be affected by it,” said Lorenc. “The flood will affect the ability of our industry to start, and that affects the ability to hire our workforce. There is a ripple effect on the economy.

“We will have to wait for the water to drain and the land to dry to a sufficient level to allow the equipment to do its work. Virtually every project inundated with excessive amounts of moisture that we won’t be able to dry will be affected.”

The MHCA represents 400 members, including contractors and suppliers involved in road and bridge building, sewer and water projects and excavation.

Some of those companies are preparing to help the province move earth to protect communities from floodwater, said Lorenc.

“It’s an extreme weather event that we’re going through now,” he said. “I just hope Mother Nature has a little bit of pity on our province and gives us a little bit of warm weather and sun.”

“It’s an extreme weather event that we’re going through now… I just hope Mother Nature has a little bit of pity on our province and gives us a little bit of warm weather and sun.” – Chris Lorenc

After a soggy start to spring, Lorenc said the industry is also hoping the construction season, which usually ends in mid-November, isn’t cut short by an early winter.

Some of biggest projects on the schedule belong to the province, which is spending $2.4 billion on infrastructure in this year’s budget.

Of that funding, $1.5 billion is going toward improving provincial highways as part of a three-year plan.

Perimeter Highway projects, including construction of a new interchange at St. Mary’s Road, will receive more than $346 million.

Manitoba Transportation and Infrastructure isn’t expecting any delay to the start of road-construction season “at this time,” a spokesperson said.

For the City of Winnipeg, it’s too early to tell if its road-construction season will be delayed by wet weather, spokesman Ken Allen said.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Street work City crews fill potholes with a tar mixture along Burrows Ave. City crews continue to fill potholes that have made driving an adventure.

“Our road-renewal construction program is planned and scheduled to start in mid- to late May when the frost comes out of the ground,” he wrote in an email. “This time frame is a typical window for the start of road renewal construction. When favourable conditions allow, construction is able to commence sooner.”

City crews continue to fill potholes that have made driving an adventure. About 700 are being filled each day.

During and after last weekend’s Colorado low, CAA Manitoba received a spike in calls related to poor weather and road conditions, including pothole damage to vehicles.

The agency received 189 tow-winch calls Monday, followed by 143 on Tuesday and 155 on Wednesday, said spokeswoman Elisha Dacey.

It was unclear how many calls involved pothole damage because CAA Manitoba doesn’t track the statistic.

Calls are starting to return to average daily totals, and a post-storm backlog has been cleared, said Dacey.

Residential building companies have expressed concerns about the stormy weather’s impact on road conditions and the timing of services, according to an advocacy group that represents them.

Heavy vehicles transporting equipment or material cannot travel on roads that are soft, said Lanny McInnes, president and CEO of the Manitoba Home Builders’ Association.

Recent rain and overland flooding are going to create extra work for rural municipalities where gravel roads are in poor shape.

Crews in the Rural Municipality of Stanley will likely be doing repairs to roads “all summer,” said Reeve Morris Olafson.

chris.kitching@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @chriskitching

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Vehicles splash through a hidden pothole on Route 90 just north of Dublin Avenue in Winnipeg. With a number of big construction projects on the horizon, the industry is monitoring the path of a Colorado low weather system that is expected to push water levels higher with more rain this weekend.
RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Street work City crews fill potholes with a tar mixture along Burrows Ave. It was unclear how many calls involved pothole damage because CAA Manitoba doesn’t track the statistic.

Chris Kitching
Reporter

As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.

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