Spring ... let’s talk potholes!
We can at last dream of Spring ... and its guaranteed gifts like robins and potholes. There’s hardly a city or town in Quebec without them, and Gatineau’s not immune. The Canadian Automobile Association is preparing its sixth annual “Worst roads in Quebec” campaign. Drivers are urged to report routes which are badly damaged – and damaging – every year. Believe it or not, in 2019, Klock Road was #3 worst road in the Outaouais, Aylmer’s worst. (CAAQUEBEC.Com)
Potholes seem guaranteed by our climate. Finding a solution is not simple and certainly never cheap. Given the distances we Canadians must pave in order to keep our communities humming, we are stuck with the stick’s short end. Just for the city of Gatineau, let alone the entire province, the upkeep of our roads and streets network is probably equal to the entire budget of several nations. That’s no exaggeration.
Transports Québec spends about $8 million per year just to fix potholes. Potholes are a small part of the road budget, and about 200,000 potholes are repaired per year. That averages to about $40 per hole. Québec’s road maintenance deficit (how much we do not spend) reached over $16 billion last year.
Gatineau’s road-repair deficit is also growing (it was an election issue at the last municipal election). “Deficit” means money which has to be spent. Will there be a day of reckoning as fiscal conservatives warn? Gatineau’s growing population and expanding road network combines with the effects of climate change to make these worries non-theoretical. When councillor Frank Therien ran for re-election in Old Aylmer, the city’s infrastructure deficit was his campaign plank.
Potholes, say the experts, are caused by more than our weather (freezing-thawing cycles); inferior construction practices and materials, plus inadequate maintenance, play a big role. Semi-permanent repairs during good weather are possible – each hole’s edges are squared, the hole drained and cleaned out, followed by pouring in a hot mix which is then compacted with a roller. This is not cheap – about $200 per hole – but should last 10 to 15 times longer than a quick patch.
Best is to avoid the holes altogether by using best-practise methods in road building. Maintenance then looks for cracks and fills them before then open up into holes. But there is no city in Canada which can afford to follow these steps without funding from higher governments.
In other words, we cannot insist that our taxes be cut, and at the same time insist our roads be built so as to reduce maintenance as much as possible. Damage to our vehicles will cost a lot more than standard, even rising, tax rates. Vehicle damage repair is a form of user-pay!
Tough climate, heavy use, and poor maintenance are causes, but the real problem is underfunding. And if we want the province to kick in even more, we have to stop insisting that taxes be lowered. Don’t we?