*We’re living beyond our infrastructure means*
WITH next month’s election spurring big-picture discussions about the City
of Winnipeg’s finances, roads are as hot an issue as ever. This has led to
many roads-related campaign promises that leave Winnipeggers hopeful for a
future with fewer potholes.
But the uncomfortable reality we need to face is that we can’t afford to
maintain all the roads we already have, much less add any more. And we
As we’ve already heard many times, the city spent $152.2 million on road
repair and replacement last year. This is a record amount, after many
consecutive years of record amounts. And according to some measures, this
debt-fuelled spending spree looks like it may have made a dent — for
instance, city reports show our infrastructure deficit went down to $6.9
billion in 2018, from $9.9 billion in 2009 (in 2018 dollars).
But looks can be deceiving. And that’s because of the way the
infrastructure deficit is calculated. This deficit is just a snapshot in
time, taken in 2018, projecting our annual infrastructure spending needs to
But because every road eventually needs to be replaced, and since their
life cycle extends beyond that 10-year snapshot, it means that, by
definition, we’re leaving stuff out of the calculation. And that can lead
to shocking surprises down the road.
What’s waiting for us outside of the current infrastructure deficit
projection, in 2028? Or 2029? Beyond?
Take Waverley West, for example. That entire area is new enough that none
of the roads has needed reconstruction yet. But they will eventually. The
entire road network for a “city the size of Brandon,” as Coun. Janice Lukes
is fond of saying, will soon be added to the maintenance queue. Turns out
all those free roads weren’t free after all.
And just so you don’t think I’m picking on Waverley West, it gets even
Assuming that a road needs to be completely replaced every 50 years or so
means any road built after 1977 does not have its reconstruction cost
factored into the current infrastructure deficit, since its reconstruction
would be scheduled for after 2027.
If we assume a 60-year lifespan, then it excludes every road in every
built after 1967. And since the majority of our roads were built after 1971
— by some estimates nearly 57 per cent — that’s a lot of roads left out of
the calculation. And a lot of money.
What’s it all going to cost? According to city reports, we own about 8,300
lane-kilometres of roads in total, all of which need periodic maintenance
and, eventually, complete replacement. The money spent last year allowed us
to maintain 113.8 lane-km of roads, and to replace 32.8 lane-km of them. At
that rate, every road will get maintenance once every 73 years, and a full
replacement once every 253 years.
To bring that into alignment with the actual lifespan of pavement,
maintenance every 10 years and replacement every 50 to 60 would require
spending about $600 million more per year than we did in 2021.
Some people think we have a spending problem. But trimming that much from
the budget would require the complete elimination of the police department
and the entire fire and paramedic department, plus shutting down the
community services department (that’s the one in charge of libraries, pools
and rec centres).
Others think instead that we have a revenue problem. But funding an extra
$600 million per year would require roughly a 100 per cent property tax
increase. Double our taxes. Just for the roads.
What about the province, or the feds? At the provincial level, we’d need a
PST increase of approximately 3.5 per cent for our per-capita share of it
to equal $600 million. The cold, hard reality is that no matter which order
of government pays for it, that money is ultimately coming from us.
Getting real about this means facing that this is not a spending problem,
nor is it a revenue problem. It’s an insolvency problem: we own way more
pavement than we can afford.
So then, how do we get on top of this road repair issue? First, when you
find yourself in a hole, stop digging. If we can’t afford the roads we
already have, we shouldn’t add more.
Second, we must do everything we can to get more people using fewer roads,
in order to maximize the lifespan of our existing investments. Getting
there will mean shifting more people into active transportation and
transit, planting street trees, slowing traffic wherever people are walking
and putting more people and destinations closer together with mixed-use
Where we find ourselves in the coming years will depend on whether we
double down on the same path we’ve been on, or whether we choose a more
productive way forward.
The choice is ours this October.
*Michel Durand-Wood lives in Elmwood and has been writing about municipal
issues since 2018. He blogs at DearWinnipeg.com, and is a contributor to
AnatomyOfAPothole.ca, a local campaign to raise awareness about the city’s
infrastructure and finance issues leading up to the election.*
Focus city on pedestrians, not cars
Cornett says one of the key lessons he learned as mayor was shaping the
city around active transportation.
"We went through a period where we recognized that the health of the
community was suffering, and from a wellness standpoint, we weren't set up
to succeed," he said.
City leadership redesigned the entire downtown grid to be more walkable and
more pedestrian-friendly, and then started building sidewalks and jogging
and biking paths out into the suburban areas.
"Over time, we started to realize that the health of the community
is really based on the social infrastructure and the physical
infrastructure combined," Cornett said.
"If you build a city around cars, you're not going to have as healthy a
community as you would [otherwise]."
City police use decoy bikes to nab four thieves
AS sure as the sun will rise, if you leave a bicycle unlocked and untended
in Winnipeg long enough, someone will try to steal it.
And sometimes police will be watching, four men learned the hard way last
“The lesson to be learned here is you never know if the bike you are
jumping on is a decoy bike,” said Winnipeg Police Service Const. Dani
Police arrested the men Sept. 14 as part of a “bait bike” project prompted
by reports of hundreds of bikes stolen this past summer in the Garden
City/West Kildonan shopping areas.
One area gym, Planet Fitness on Leila Avenue, reported roughly 100 bikes
had been stolen from outside the property since June.
Dozens of theft reports were submitted to police, while dozens more went
unreported but were captured on surveillance video.
Police placed a bait bike in various locations near businesses that
had reported multiple bike thefts, and soon caught two men trying to
steal the bike. Two other men — one of whom is a suspect in the Planet
Fitness thefts — were arrested after they were seen “casing” other bikes as
they carried bolt cutters.
Police have used bait bikes in other parts of the city where thefts have
been particularly high, McKinnon said.
She urged everyone who has had a bike stolen to report it to police, saying
it helps police pinpoint high crime areas and focus resources.
“When there is video evidence or a statement provided, that is valuable
information,” she said.
A Planet Fitness manager declined to speak to a reporter.
The four accused face charges including theft and possession of break-in
In case you missed this in the Free Press:
Cyclists and pedestrians are on the same side
MY granddad had a saying: “It’s better to negotiate from a place of
strength than a place of weakness.”
I’ve been reflecting on this maxim as the clock ticks steadily toward 2030
— the year by which Winnipeg’s unanimously-approved-by-council Climate
Action Plan says we must have significantly reduced the number of trips
taken in motor vehicles.
With each year, it seems more unlikely — maybe downright impossible — that
we’ll meet the target of reducing personal-vehicle use from 81 per cent to
50 per cent of all trips.
Private vehicle traffic makes up the lion’s share of Winnipeg’s
transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions. To reduce those GHGs, the
plan relies almost entirely on people switching to active transportation
modes. Despite that ambitious goal, little is being done to make walking
and biking safer or more pleasant.
For many Winnipeggers, active transportation is not seen as a viable
alternative to driving, even for short trips that could easily be done on
foot or by bike, at least sometimes. Many of us don’t live within easy
walking or biking distance of our daily needs, but for those who do, why
aren’t we leaving our cars at home more often? The answer lies in what
we’ve done — or haven’t done – to make that choice more viable.
There’s a long-standing, ongoing back-and-forth in this newspaper’s letters
to the editor, with concerns focused on cyclists riding on the sidewalk or
at top speed on shared paths, or pedestrians blithely walking three
abreast, oblivious to bells and other users because they’re on their phone
or wearing earbuds.
Some writers plead for mutual respect and common sense, while others insist
a full regime of bicycle licensing, registration, insurance and enforcement
It’s tempting to think we simply need to correct specific, individual
behaviours. But in reality, these conflicts are a direct result of
insufficient space for people travelling outside of vehicles. (And if we
think shared paths are bad now, just wait until e-scooters and e-bikes
really take off — and that day is coming, sooner than we think.)
That’s the actual problem, not “aggressive cyclists” or “oblivious
pedestrians.” It’s a transportation system in which motor vehicle traffic
takes up so much space that all other users are left fighting for scraps.
It’s a system that pits folks who are walking and biking (and costing the
city and the planet the least) against each other.
And it’s the same system in which drivers insist our arterials – major
roads, usually with four or more lanes – need more lanes and the inner ring
road must be completed, despite decades of evidence that adding more
capacity to roads just means more people will use them. The rule of induced
demand means we can’t build our way out of congestion.
Evidence also shows when cities build safe, quality infrastructure for
biking and walking, people choose those modes more often. Lucky for us,
many parts of the city have excellent potential to evolve into “15-minute
neighbourhoods.” But that won’t happen if we aren’t willing to reconfigure
In Winnipeg, nothing is more sacrosanct than traffic flow on an arterial.
To date, any changes that might impact traffic flow or parking have been
off the table. That’s why you won’t find protected bike lanes on Osborne
Street, on Henderson Highway, on St. Mary’s Road or any other arterials;
instead, you’ll find a mishmash of side street “bike routes” — if you’re
A complete bike network that allows folks to move between all parts of the
city is essential. But if we want people to start using active
transportation for their everyday needs, it’s also essential to provide
safe infrastructure on arterials, because that’s where most destinations —
stores, services, restaurants, libraries, pools, etc. — are.
There is more than enough road space in the city to provide abundant routes
for public transit, active transportation, commercial and private vehicular
traffic. Every time we repair or reconstruct a roadway, we need to
incorporate protected bike lanes and better sidewalks as a matter of course
(even if it means taking that space from cars) — especially on those
destination-rich arterials. If we want to convert trips from car to foot or
bike, the space allocated to each mode must reflect that goal.
The longer we wait to adapt to the new reality our planet demands, the
longer we allow car-oriented spending to decimate our city coffers, the
longer we wait to give people safe and pleasant infrastructure to do at
least some of their trips without driving, the harder and more abrupt the
transition will be.
There’s another saying: the best time to plant a tree is 40 years ago; the
next best time is today. With each passing month and year, we have less
time to forge a better transportation system that makes Winnipeg a more
livable city while meeting our climate action goals.
We will never have more time to start adapting than we do right now. It’s
time to negotiate from a place of strength.
*Emma Durand-Wood is a parent of three young children living in Elmwood.*
Pushing for winter of clean-scraped sidewalks <goog_1457759345>
SOME Winnipeg sidewalks could be cleared right down to the pavement this
winter, if a new motion winding its way through city hall succeeds.
The motion calls for city crews to clear all sidewalks that have been rated
in good condition to “bare pavement” during a pilot project next winter.
“When you compare it to icy, slushy or irregular services that we get at
times, especially in the spring, I believe bare pavement… would be a much
better level of service,” said Coun. Matt Allard, who raised the motion.
Winnipeg’s snow clearing policy calls for sidewalks along major routes,
non-regional bus routes and collector streets to be cleared to a compacted
snow surface following five centimetres of snow. Such sidewalks in the
downtown are cleared to a paved surface “whenever conditions allow.”
Allard has publicly complained about his own treacherous winter walks in
the past, including slips and falls that occurred while he was wearing
“If you’re a pedestrian in this city, you know that there’s a time in the
spring where things can become quite treacherous, with uneven sidewalks and
uneven ice… That is not a level of service that allows a person to get to
their bus stop, for example, without having a certain level of risk,” he
If the pilot project is approved, it would apply to sidewalks repaired in
2021, the only ones the city has recently assessed to be in good condition.
The city says about 33 kilometres of sidewalk and cycling paths fall into
that category, while there are about 3,400 km of sidewalks throughout
City spokesman Ken Allen said only the walkways known to be in good
condition are suited for clearing ice and snow to the bare pavement.
“In order for a plow to clear a sidewalk down to the pavement, it requires
the operator to put down-pressure on the plow blade in order to scrape off
the snow and ice from the surface of the sidewalk, and a sidewalk in poor
condition would likely be more difficult to clear due to a potentially
uneven surface, and be harder mechanically on the snow-clearing equipment.
As well, it is expected that clearing sidewalks down to the pavement would
take longer to achieve as sidewalk plows would likely have to make multiple
passes to get it done,” Allen said in a written statement.
He noted temperature, snow amount and snow storage capacity could also
affect the city’s ability to meet a bare pavement standard.
Allen said the condition of sidewalks that weren’t recently repaired isn’t
clear because the city doesn’t regularly rate them. He said the public
service plans to assess other sidewalks soon, with the first round of
city-wide ratings expected by December 2024.
With that work still underway, Allard stressed the city should test
snow-clearing improvements on every sidewalk that can handle it next winter.
“The best study… is to send the plows and to plow to pavement. Then we’ll
know how much it costs, how much staff time it takes,” he said.
A seniors’ transportation advocate hopes bare pavement clearing can
ultimately become the city-wide standard.
“Sidewalk clearing, for us, is really important because we know many
seniors, especially in downtown and core areas, need those sidewalks to get
access to daily resources… Actually having fully cleared sidewalks is truly
(offering) independence,” said Samantha Rodeck, executive director of the
Transportation Options Network for Seniors.
Rodeck said current clearing standards can leave folks unsure if all
sidewalks they require to complete a trip will be clear enough to make it
“When that ice builds up it just continues to build ruts. Imagine trying to
push a wheelchair or a walker … on (a walkway) that isn’t (cleared) down to
the pavement. It’s very challenging,” she said.
Rodeck said the change could also prevent slips and falls, preventing
injuries and making it less scary for those with reduced mobility to leave
“With us changing this one little (thing), we’re enhancing a person’s
quality of life and potentially decreasing health-care costs,” she said.
Allen said it’s not clear how much more it would cost the city to clear
“good condition” sidewalks to a bare pavement level. He said the pilot
project likely won’t require council approval, unless the effort is deemed
to change the snow-clearing policy.
Council’s public works committee is expected to debate Allard’s motion on
Disappointment after West End summer cycling route shelved
PLANS to install a temporary poly-post protected bike lane on a
two-kilometre stretch of Wellington Avenue under the city’s open streets
program for 2022 had to be shelved.
There was not enough time and no money budgeted to overcome the
complications that stopped the project from moving forward in the spring,
according to a report by City of Winnipeg staff.
The proposed route between Maryland and Strathcona streets in the West End
would have filled a need for cyclists, said Mark Cohoe, executive director
of Bike Winnipeg.
“When you look at that area of the city, what are your east-west
opportunities? There’s not a lot,” he said.
At its Sept. 7 meeting, the city’s infrastructure renewal and public works
committee will vote on whether to send the proposed route to the 2023
Cohoe hopes there is enough political will to fund and follow through with
a bike route on Wellington, but he worries it won’t be a priority.
Committee chair Coun. Matt Allard (St. Boniface) said he supports a cycling
route on Wellington. He hopes city council will go a step further and
approve permanent lanes.
At its April 28 meeting, council approved plans for a temporary route with
poly posts as part of this year’s enhanced summer bike route program.
But city staff determined the protected route is beyond the scope of the
program, which reduces speed limits to 30 km/h and places weekend
traffic-calming measures on 15 designated routes, not including Wellington,
between May and November.
Further study is required and dedicated funding would be needed to design
and construct the route, according to the report, which cited a number of
Among them, Wellington has varying widths, with some stretches too narrow
for a protected cycling route.
The intersections with Erin and Wall streets, which are controlled by
traffic lights, would have to be reconfigured to establish the right-of-way.
To complete the temporary route, all parking would have to be removed from
Wellington until it was completed, risking the ire of residents and drivers.
Also at its Sept. 7 meeting, the four-member committee will also consider
removing barricades set up on most of Scotia Street on weekends and
holidays between May and November.
When the program was approved, a one-block vehicle travel restriction was
to be imposed on Scotia — one of the 15 designated routes — at those times.
If approved, the change would not affect the temporary reduced speed limit
of 30 km/h.
Cohoe believes keeping the reduced speed limit is the right move.
Road users fear large volumes of traffic on Scotia — a gateway to Kildonan
Park — but a speed limit of 30 km/h helps to reduce that concern, he said.
“Certainly, having the reduced traffic on there is a benefit,” he said,
noting he hopes the city keeps track of traffic on the street.
Scotia is part of the North Winnipeg Parkway Study that is underway.
Cohoe is among those who believe the city needs to step up efforts to
include new active-transportation routes, where appropriate, when roads are
reconstructed or rehabilitated.
Cyclist Ian McCausland said it is disappointing when road-construction
projects do not include bike routes when the opportunity is there.
“The city has to look at all these infrastructure projects through the lens
of the climate crisis,” he said.
Allard said he also finds it disappointing, given a 2008 city policy which
requires reconstruction or rehabilitation of any street on the
active-transportation network to include upgrades for cycling.
The enhanced summer bike route program, initially known as “open streets,”
began in 2020 during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic to
prioritize active transportation.
Now in its third year, the program has been hailed by Allard and fellow
committee members Coun. Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) and Coun. Markus
Chambers (St. Norbert-Seine River).
“I think a lot of the kinks have been ironed out,” said Allard. “I’m
satisfied it has been a success, and that it’s now going to be a feature of
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