Councillor Shelley Carroll

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Toronto Star Article - March 15, 2007

There have been many misleading numbers about road repairs circulating recently, the below article from the Toronto Star (March 15, 2007) is the most accurate piece of journalism I've seen yet.

Drivers get a few breaks

The city will spend $132 million on road repairs, but with a $300 million backlog, some won't get fixed, writes Jack Lakey

Mar 15, 2007 04:30 AM

Toronto's roads need a lot of fixing that won't happen any time soon, but repairs scheduled for the 2007 construction season should bring some comfort to drivers looking for smooth streets.
Following city council's approval last week of the $1.432 billion capital budget for 2007, some news reports said only $5 million was earmarked for road repairs, just half of the $10 million spent in 2006.
With the city already $300 million behind on its state-of-good-repair program for roads, and their overall condition noticeably worse than even a half-dozen years ago, it seemed stupid to almost totally neglect such a vital asset.
It was an alarming number for The Fixer; we figured it would cost that much to repair the road problems highlighted in our stories alone.
So we went looking for more information and found out the $5 million figure badly understates the 2007 repair agenda for major thoroughfares, bridges and secondary streets.
Toronto will spend a total of $132 million on road rehabilitation this year, including money in the 2007 operating budget, which has yet to be approved, says John Mende, the city's director of transportation infrastructure management.
"We had some concerns about that ($5 million) number," primarily that taxpayers would think the city had all but abandoned road repairs, said Mende.
The $5 million is the amount the city will spend in 2007 to address a backlog of repairs to the Gardiner Expressway, said Mende, with the biggest portion to pay for safety improvements to the median, west of Jameson Ave.
It's part of a five-year, $25 million plan to make long-needed repairs to the Gardiner.
We get a lot of complaints about deteriorating local roads, mainly residential streets that people drive on every day.
It annoys taxpayers when the city spends $2.9 million to make improvements to the mayor's office and meeting rooms at city hall, while the street in front of their home is slowly crumbling.
But Mende says about $45 million – more than one-third of the 2007 road repair total – will be spent on two-lane streets, with hundreds of small jobs in residential areas to be tendered to private contractors this spring.
The remaining $87 million will be spent on projects involving major streets, such as Bathurst or Dundas, as well as bridges and expressways, including a lot more work on the Don Valley Parkway, he said.
The biggest of the jobs is the rehabilitation of Dundas, between Broadview and Roncesvalles Aves.
Over the next two years, the TTC will replace all the streetcar tracks between Broadview and Roncesvalles, with lengths of new rail already dropped along stretches of Dundas, west of Broadview, in preparation for the work.
The price tag totals $25 million, said Mende, with the $15 million needed for the track repairs to come out of the TTC's budget. Mende said that the city decided to repave Dundas at the same time, to minimize the inconvenience to drivers.
Another big job is the total reconstruction of Bathurst St., between Eglinton and Lawrence Aves.
While resurfacing involves stripping away old pavement and laying down new asphalt, reconstruction is much more extensive and three times as costly, Mende explained.
In the life cycle of a road, which can sometimes last more than 20 years before rehabilitation is needed, there is a window of opportunity – usually no more than a few years – when the deterioration can be repaired with a new layer of asphalt, he said.
If that window of opportunity is missed – as has often been the case in Toronto over the past decade due to declining budgets – the deterioration usually advances to the point where the street must be completely torn up, right down to the aggregates and concrete that make up the road bed, said Mende.
That's the situation on Bathurst, where the repair work is likely to cause major headaches for drivers during rush hours but should be completed before the end of the year, he said.
It also explains why the $300 million backlog in repairs is expected to grow to nearly $500 million by 2011. Once a road requires reconstruction, Mende says city staff must make a judgment call on how long the much pricier work can be delayed, then prioritize the job, taking into account the condition of other streets also slated for reconstruction.
Oher major projects scheduled for this year include reconstruction of McNicoll Ave. (a frequent source of complaints to The Fixer), between Ellesmere Rd. and Sheppard Ave., resurfacing of Davenport Rd, between Lansdowne Ave. and Old Weston Rd., and resurfacing of Martin Grove Rd., between Albion Rd. and Steeles Ave.

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