Town not going to resurface roads

Duane Hicks

The town won’t be resurfacing Elizabeth Street West, York Avenue, Cornwall Avenue, or a portion of Sixth Street West this year, but it will get the engineering work done so these roads possibly could get the full reconstruction treatment in the future.
In response to budget requests made by a number of north-end residents, town council discussed at length the possibility of resurfacing them during its budget meeting late Monday afternoon at the Civic Centre.
But council ultimately decided to remove the resurfacing from the capital budget, reasoning that if the roads will get resurfaced, it only will be once the water and sewer pipes beneath them also are replaced at the same time.
One grave concern of Operations and Facilities manager Travis Rob is that these streets contain ductile iron watermains with two-bolt connections.
This type of watermain “is extremely problematic for the town. It is very susceptible to failure, particularly when you start disturbing the ground around it,” Rob told council.
He added the watermain very likely would fail simply due to the action of compacting the road base prior to applying the surface treatment.
In other words, the vibrations caused by compaction likely would result in a watermain break.
Consequently, any watermain breaks would have to be dug up and fixed prior to the surface treatment being completed, driving up the cost of the work.
If no breaks occurred prior to the surface treatment, it could be applied, but Rob felt he could guarantee the town eventually would end up having to dig through that new surface to do a watermain repair.
“We’ve worked a lot in the last number of years to get a lot of this two-bolt watermain out of our ground,” he noted.
“Along the highway by Walmart is the most recent.
“We’ve been applying for funding to do Colonization Road West, which also has two-bolt watermain that is very susceptible to failure,” Rob added.
“We’ve been unsuccessful and unable to do that the last number of years.
“That’s definitely our next high-priority section of two-bolt to be removed,” he stressed.
If council were to resurface the north-end roads, the best option would be to fully reconstruct them and replace the watermains altogether, Rob said.
“However, there are other higher-volume, greater-risk roadways with two-bolt watermains and sections with more critical sanitary sewer and watermains that need to be addressed before these sections,” he noted.
“Administration works to prioritize annual road works based on available funding, most critical infrastructure, opportunity to reduce downtime and operational costs, and our asset management plan as opposed to only following complaints,” he advised.
Coun. Paul Ryan, who previously had asked for the resurfacing to be kept in the capital budget, admitted he was unaware of the two-bolt watermains in this particular part of town but changed his mind when he found this out.
He attested to the problematic nature of the two-bolt watermains, noting that years ago when the town was doing work on the riverfront, they decided to add the resurfacing of two blocks of Front Street–from La Verendrye Hospital to Crowe Avenue–to the project.
“And guess what happened?” he remarked. “The minute we put the compactor on–it was a two-bolt system–we had a break.
“They fixed it. We had another break. They fixed it.
“Then they had an emergency council meeting and decided, ‘We just can’t do this anymore. We have to replace the whole line,'” Coun. Ryan recounted.
“So that added a huge cost to the resurfacing project, and I think the same thing would happen in this instance if we went ahead with it,” he warned.
Coun. Ryan explained the two-bolt pipes literally are held together with two bolts and two bolts only, and in many cases, there’s likely nothing left of these bolts.
He added the ground around the two-bolt watermains is compacted fairly well since they’ve been there for a long time, and this is what is what’s keeping these watermains together in most cases.
“The minute you jar it or have any differential heaving, they break,” Coun. Ryan said.
While council, in general, felt the roads in question–as well as others in town–indeed are in poor shape, the majority felt they should not be resurfaced at this time.
They did agree, however, that survey and design work should be done in anticipation of them being reconstructed down the road.
Coun. Ken Perry was the only council member who was steadfast that some resurfacing be done this year, noting that fixing the roads is not the same as sewer and water.
“Sewer and water is in the ground for 100 years and yet a road’s good for about 20,” he remarked, reasoning that roads should be fixed five times more frequently than sewer and water pipes needs to replaced.
“And when do we close a road? When do we say this road is so bad, we’re not going to use it anymore? Because apparently we are not going to fix it,” Coun. Perry added.
“I’m serious. That’s kinda where we’re at.
“York Avenue is getting to the point where it’s like a roller-coaster,” he noted. “Is that what we want to drive on? [And] Sixth Street is not much better, maybe worse.
“You can’t do sewer and water every time you do a road surface,” Coun. Perry argued. “It’s just not feasible. . . .
“And the roads are getting to a point where nobody wants to drive on them anymore.”
Fort Frances CAO Doug Brown noted the next council will be making more of its capital budget decisions based on its asset management system, which must in place by 2022.
The town currently is in the process of cataloging all of its assets–from roads to pipes to trees and playground equipment–to development a plan as to when these assets will need to be replaced and how much money will be needed to replace them.
In the case of roads, the town must priorize higher-traffic volume roads, and those with greater risk of water and sewer infrastructure failure, when it decides which ones will be fixed.
The council of the day will be looking ahead on a five-year basis and spend its money according to a strict schedule of when its assets need to be replaced.
Work on this year’s budget is now complete, with the capital budget coming in at $8.2 million and the operating budget being just under $10 million.
The budget is expected to be presented publicly at the April 23 council meeting before receiving council’s final approval.