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This article was published 20/11/2011 (3454 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
When it comes to patching potholes and smoothing bumps on city roads, Winnipeg takes the proverbial one step forward, two steps back.
New data show that for every stretch of roadway the city fixes every year, one or more streets fall into a worse state of disrepair.
Between 2009 and 2010, Winnipeg improved 87 of the city's major arteries, including stretches of St. Anne's Road and Portage Avenue, city data analyzed by the Free Press indicate. But during that same time period, 123 other major roadways got worse -- about 11 per cent of all regional streets.
The city is to unveil its latest capital budget tomorrow, which is expected to include more money to fix roads.
However, city politicians caution that a spending boost still won't be enough to deal with the backlog of roads in need of repair. Public works chairman Coun. Dan Vandal (St. Boniface) said the most recent figures estimate Winnipeg would have to spend about $380 million every year on streets, bridges, and public transit just to keep up with the current need for maintenance.
"That's the conundrum we're in," Vandal said. "We're losing ground."
Every year, the city rates the pavement condition of major arteries such as Portage Avenue and Bishop Grandin Boulevard that see thousands of cars every day. City engineers keep tabs on which ones should be made a priority, and the crummiest, pothole-laden streets with drainage problems are labelled as "poor."
The latest available data obtained through freedom of information show that between 2009 and 2010, 87 stretches of roadway slipped from new or good to a "fair" state -- in which they now require rehabilitation and are on the cusp of needing a total overhaul. These roadways include four stretches of Henderson Highway and six sections of Ellice Avenue. Another 36 streets were downgraded from fair to poor, including four sections of Wellington Avenue and three stretches of Concordia Avenue.
While another 753 roads stayed in the same condition over the two-year time period, 192 were rated as fair and 139 were considered in poor shape.
Rod Hamilton, asset management engineer with the City of Winnipeg, said it's a challenge to try to keep good roads in good shape and tend to the long list of roads that need major rehab. In the past few years, he said, city crews have attempted to do minor repairs to streets in good shape to try to prevent bumps and holes from forming.
Hamilton said Winnipeg started doing "mill and fill" in 2004, in which crews shave off the top two inches of pavement and do minor concrete repairs, as a sort of temporary fix so the street can last a few more years before needing major work done.
While it's bought crews more time, Hamilton said there's still a chunk of streets that get worse every year.
"There is a certain percentage every year that will move from fair to poor," Hamilton said. "You have more (streets to do) the next year because they're starting to slip down."
Last year, the city devoted $32.4 million to repairs of existing streets, back lanes and gravel roads -- $10.8 million less than the year before.
Vandal said the city spends about five times more on fixing existing roads than it does paving new ones. Even so, he said, the city hasn't done enough to address the backlog and needs to find a solution with other levels of government to pay for the improvements.
River Heights Coun. John Orlikow said the city will continue to fix fewer streets, since budgets have not increased and construction costs continue to rise. Last week, Orlikow voted against Winnipeg's new transportation master plan, which outlines roadway improvements and transit projects over the next 20 years.
Orlikow said Winnipeg should invest in its existing roads before it spends money on new ones.
"We're not managing our old infrastructure at all. We've neglected it and we continue to neglect it," he said. "The fact that more streets are failing than we're actually repairing is just an example it's going to get worse."
WIN SOME, LOSE SOME
Every year, the city rates the condition of major roadways and makes a list of which ones will get fixed. Here's a look at the shape of Winnipeg's main arteries in 2009 and 2010:
2009: 107 2010: 59
2009: 496 2010: 487
2009: 267 2010: 311
2009: 199 2010: 177