There’s that sickening,
sort of free-floating dip,
followed quickly by an alltoo-
unmistakable and ugly thud
of your car’s undercarriage
striking hard asphalt.
MRC compiling list of Ontario’s worst roads again
BY GRANT CAMERON
Don’t you just hate it.
There’s that sickening, sort of free-floating dip, followed quickly by an alltoo- familiar sound—the unmistakable and ugly thud of your car’s undercarriage striking hard asphalt.
Another pothole, you curse. Another ding.
Well now’s your chance to set the record straight, to release your frustrations, to let everybody know the exact location of Ontario’s worst roads.
The Municipal Roads Coalition (MRC), an organization that includes groups such as the Ontario Road Builders’ Association (ORBA) and Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), officially launched its second annual Worst Roads campaign on Tuesday.
It allows motorists to vote for the worst municipal roads in the province. Winners will be announced in November.
Motorists can register their nominations by going online at www.worstroads.ca or by calling 1-877- worstrd (1-877-967-7873) toll-free.
The Web site also provides information about the municipal road system in Ontario and allows motorists to send e-mail messages expressing concerns to mayors of the jurisdictions.
This year, organizers of the campaign are also using billboards to remind frustrated motorists that they now have an opportunity to send a strong message to political leaders.
Last year, the coalition released a list of the 19 worst roads in Ontario. It was topped by Steeles Avenue from Yonge Street to Bathurst Street in Toronto.
Some municipalities responded to the public attention, the coalition says, and soon after the list was released last year, Windsor, Simcoe County, Barrie, Waterloo and Welland began repairs.
The municipalities of Sarnia and Simcoe County have also modestly increased their roads budgets.
Rob Bradford, executive- director of ORBA, said the coalition saw some improvements but more are needed.
“It was still only a quarter of the list. We need more effort, especially from the larger cities.”
Bradford said governments delude themselves by thinking they can save money by delaying road maintenance.
He said the cost of basic preventative maintenance during the first 10 years of a road’s life is between $500 and $1,000 per lane-kilometre and if the work is delayed, the cost jumps to $80,000 by year 12 and as much as $250,000 by year 15 as the problems become more serious.
He said travel on Ontario’s roads is growing by leaps and bounds, with one million more registered vehicles in the province than eight years ago, yet the system is expanding at a turtle’s pace—less than half of one per cent a year.
Mark Arsenault, spokesman for CAA Ontario, said despite promises from Ottawa and Queen’s Park and billions of dollars in gas taxes collected every year, little has been done to address Ontario’s crumbling road infrastructure and congested highways, unsafe roads and potholed streets have become commonplace throughout the province.
“In the past 12 months we’ve had elections at all three levels of government,” Arsenault said. “There has been much political rhetoric, but little improvement where the rubber hits the road.”The deteriorating road system also hits motorists in the pocketbook, said Arsenault, as drivers in southern Ontario now spend an average of almost $2,000 over the life of their vehicles in repairing damage caused by poor road conditions. That’s the highest level in all of Canada.
Tasha Kherriden, of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said Ottawa collects some $2 billion in taxes from Ontario motorists, yet almost none of that money goes to roads in the province, and Queen’s Park collects another $3 billion from motorists, spending about one-third of that amount on roads.
“We want governments to end the bickering and start laying the asphalt,” she said.
“We need a co-ordinated effort. We need to ensure that these dollars go to concrete, not concert halls.”
Brian Crow, president and CEO of the Ontario Motor Coach Association, said road congestion and disrepair are hurting Ontario’s already soft tourism numbers in 2004.
“We rely on roads to keep our industry humming. We’re worried because the municipalities have put the brakes on road maintenance and upgrades,” he said.
“This is especially difficult as this year’s tourism numbers are down.”
Doug Switzer, of the Ontario Trucking Association, said there are negative economic impacts from poor roads and heavy traffic volumes and delays encountered daily in Southern Ontario can add between 10 and 35 per cent to the cost of moving goods.
“Since about three quarters of all Ontario exports move by truck to the U.S., our roads are essential to the continued prosperity of this province,” he said.
“We need to maintain and improve our roads or we risk becoming less competitive.”
The MRC was formed in 2003 to advocate for appropriate investments in municipal road maintenance and improvements.
The coalition says a steady decline in public investment has put the municipal road system in crisis and unless this vital issue is addressed, the problems of road deterioration, congestion, traffic injuries and fatalities, and lost economic opportunity will worsen.
The coalition is working to call attention to the problem and persuade municipalities to increase funding for road maintenance and construction.
The 19 worst roads in Ontario named by MRC last year
1. Steeles Avenue, Yonge Street to Bathurst Street, Toronto
2. Tashmoo Avenue, Sarnia
3. Regent Street, Sudbury
4. Dufferin Street, CNE north to Bloor Street, Toronto
5. St. Clair Avenue, Toronto
6. Municipal Road 55, Copper Cliff to Lively, Sudbury
7. Wellington Road, London
8. Christina Street, Wellington to Centennial, Sarnia
9. Huron Church Road, Windsor
10. Steeles Avenue, Northwest of Toronto, Vaughan, Brampton and Milton
11. County Road 56, Sideroads 21 to 25, County of Simcoe
12. Wellington Street, Barrie
13. Columbia Street, King Street to Phillip Street, Waterloo
14. Centennial Parkway, between King Street and QEW, Hamilton
15. Bronson Avenue, Laurier to south of the Queensway, Ottawa
16. Lincoln Street, Welland
17. Syndicate Avenue, near Walsh Street, Thunder Bay
18. Mowat Avenue, two blocks south from Forsythe Street, Kingston
19. Ferguson Street, Moosonee
Some facts about Ontario roads released by MRC
• The municipal road system has an estimated length of 282,400 lane-kilometres, and municipalities maintain more than 12,000 bridges and culverts.
• Travel on these roads has been growing at four per cent annually yet the system has been expanding at only about 0.3 per cent a year.
• The last available data shows that spending on roads dropped by $273 million, or 25 per cent, from 1995 to 1996 alone.
• A recent study of 35 municipalities in Ontario found that they needed to spend more than $700 million on road reconstruction, while actual spending amounted to only $255 million. In addition, 45 per cent of the roads required work, with 10 per cent needing immediate repair.
• The federal government collects about $5 billion from gas taxes and fees and spent scarcely $135 million on roads. Ontario collects about $3 billion and spends about $1 billion on roads.
• A recent research study by a traffic safety group found that municipal road improvements could significantly reduce accidents.
• Heavy traffic volumes and delays can add between 10 to 35 per cent to the cost of moving goods.( According to the Ontario provincial auditor, the cost of basic preventative maintenance during the first 10 years of a road’s life is between $500 and $1,000 per lane-kilometre. If the work is delayed to year 12, the cost per lane-kilometre jumps to $80,000. By year 15, the cost could be as high as $250,000 per lane-kilometre.