Province promises millions to patch potholes
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The province will provide a new $15-million road repair fund this year, primarily to help restore routes riddled with potholes.
Premier Heather Stefanson announced the one-time grant on Monday, which includes $8.9 million earmarked for Winnipeg.
“We recognize that, while potholes are an annual challenge in our province, the extreme cold temperatures this winter, significant precipitation and repeated freeze-thaw cycles this spring, have caused a substantial increase to the number and severity of potholes this year. We understand municipalities are (also) facing pressure from inflation and supply chain issues,” said Stefanson, during a news conference.
The money will be doled out to cities on a per-capita basis and can be spent on road reconstruction, rehabilitation and preservation projects, though the premier noted the idea was inspired by the marked increase in potholes.
The press event started about 15 minutes late, after the premier’s vehicle collided with a large dip in the road.
“We actually hit a pothole this morning and I spilled my coffee down me but it’s all good. That’s the reason this is so important for all of us to be here today,” she said.
The money comes as Manitoba Public Insurance copes with a surge in pothole damage claims.
In a typical year, the public insurer receives about 60 claims due to pothole-related vehicle damage, including about 40 in Winnipeg, throughout March and April, said Eric Herbelin, president of MPI. That number skyrocketed to more than 300 claims in each of those months this year, he said.
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said the extra cash is welcome to help fill potholes as quickly as possible.
“After one of the snowiest winters on record and a freeze-thaw cycle that is now finally letting up in May, Winnipeggers are now facing a pothole season like no other… Our crews so far have filled just over 46,000 potholes, with many more to go,” said Bowman.
The mayor noted wild weather has made it difficult for the city to smooth out the roads so far. Until last week, temperatures were too cold for the city to use a more permanent, hot asphalt mixture to fill the gaps. Prior to that, a cold-mix patching material was used to offer more temporary repairs.
Bowman could not immediately answer how much quicker potholes may be repaired due to the new funding or how many the city has yet to fill.
In an email, the city confirmed municipal crews usually fill about 170,000 potholes per year, between March and November. That typically costs about $17.50 per pothole, though the tab varies by size and severity.
City spokesman Ken Allen said it’s too early to say how much of this year’s repairs the provincial cash will cover, though it appears the damage is still growing.
“It is expected that with the current forecasted rainfall, more potholes will be developing on some city streets,” wrote Allen.
Stefanson said this is the first time in recent memory that the province has provided emergency funding primarily to deal with an influx of potholes.
“I just think this winter has been much more dramatic, in terms of weather conditions. The thawing and refreezing and what has taken place has really caused significant damage,” she said.
Chris Lorenc, president of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association, said the short-term funding is desperately needed but “a bigger conversation” is also required to ensure better long-term road maintenance.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.
Updated on Monday, May 9, 2022 5:43 PM CDT: Adds photo