Sign up for our free weekday bulletin.

OPINION: Why city council earns an “F” on roads

Published on

George Mathewson

If you’ve been living under the happy delusion the city might fix your potholed street anytime soon, you might want to stop reading now.

I have bad news.

Sarnia has no plans to resurface a single residential street this year. As in nil, zip, zilch.

And next year?

The number of residential streets designated for asphalt replacement in 2016 is zero once again.

In fact, not a single road in the city’s built-up areas – the places where people actually live – are scheduled to be resurfaced for the next three years, and that’s as far out as planning projections go.

One stretch of truck-pounded Kenny Street in the Valley is getting new pavement this year, as are sections of Confederation and Blackwell Side Road.

Why not your street? Because cash-starved city staff have had to give priority to major roads with their higher speed limits and greater risk of accidents and liability.

The failure of successive councils to do something about our crumbling residential streets is becoming an abdication of responsibility.

A full 25% of the road network has, in the diplomatic language of staff, “reached the end of its design life and is in need of repair.”

That’s 104 kilometres of broken and patched pavement engineers say should be ripped up and replaced immediately.

Safe streets are one of those fundamental obligations of municipal government, but Sarnia’s failure to keep up has created a serious infrastructure deficit.

Even with a painful day of reckoning coming council is doing just $1 million worth of road resurfacing this year, a fraction of 1% of the total city budget.

That’s simply not good enough.

As the map above indicates, the time to right this sinking ship is fast running out. Over the next two years another 70 kilometres of pavement will hit the end of its useful life. By then, 40% of our roads will be broken with no plan to fix them.

Sarnians call city hall all the time to ask, urge and plead to have their street fixed. People on Echo Road even got up a petition to say theirs is a “disgrace” that’s been neglected for three decades.

When the petition came before council last week several councillors admitted there’s a problem, but not one of them said, “We need to fix it.”

Instead, they kicked the can further down the road to that mythical day when money will blossom from trees and left the pothole patrol to go on patching and repairing.

Roadwork isn’t sexy, but it’s council’s job to balance needs and spend money wisely. If resurfacing funds aren’t reallocated soon the current one will go down as a group that didn’t re-asphalt a single residential street its entire term of office.

And that, to my mind, earns a failing grade.



















More like this