In the midst of budget season, it’s not only underground infrastructure that’s giving city council a headache, but visible infrastructure as well.
In 2005, the City of Prince Albert ranked a pavement quality index (PQI) of 74 out of 100 – an above average rating, city manager of capital projects Wes Hicks wrote in a report to council.
To maintain this level, the city needed to spend $2.5 million per year on asphalt paving rehabilitation. By spending only $2.16 million per year since that time, they’ve suffered a shortfall of more than $4 million.
This under-expenditure “has forced Public Works to make critical choices in selecting roadways for rehabilitation,” Hicks’ report reads.
Arterial roadways have been made a priority, followed by collectors and then residential roadways at the bottom, and “only dealt with when they have completely failed.”
The city’s overall PQI has dropped to a below average of 62, while residential PQI has dropped to be “nearing failure at 56.”
Few know this roadway failure better than Coun. Charlene Miller, who has encouraged council since she was first elected in 2009 to have more of her ward paved.
Of the city’s 292 kilometres of roadways within city limits, 52 are still gravel.
“I am only one vote,” she said -- a vote she hopes to strengthen with a petition, this year.
“People want to develop the roads, and they would like a petition to start for 14th Street and 16th Street to be paved,” she said. “It would be a cost-share with residents.”
A barrier to this effort has been with property owners who rent out their buildings. Typically unwilling to make an investment in their neighbourhood, Miller said that they make getting the 50 per cent approval by property owners difficult.
A few years ago, Miller took this problem to the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association, who backed her up in taking renters out of the equation. The motion is still before the provincial government, which has yet to act on it.
During last year’s civic campaign trail, Coun. Rick Orr said that a big concern of residents north of the river was the state of residential roads.
“One of the concerns I heard at the door was that we weren’t doing enough maintenance on the gravel roads – wash boarding and that type of thing,” he said.
This will be brought up during budget discussions, he said -- discussions that will be accompanied by discussions around innovative ways of doing things.
With modern oil prices, asphalt “is a very, very expensive product to put down,” Orr said, noting that recycling asphalt may prove a less expensive way to go.
The city has quite a bit of leftover asphalt millings from last year’s work at the airport runway that can be used toward such an initiative, city public works director Colin Innes said.
“You’re able to get a pretty decent surface out of that -- a hard surface, and so it’s certainly a good thing to be doing instead of, historically, that old asphalt would have been peeled off and thrown away,” he said.
Although the price is comparable to that of gravel surfaces, Innes noted that recycled asphalt surfaces kick up less dust, providing another tool for the 2013 budgetary toolbox.
Special attention will be devoted to dust control this year, Miller said, noting that 2012 was the last year that the city would oil gravel streets, as per a motion made by Coun. Ted Zurakowski in May, 2010.
This comes as a relief to Miller, who had motioned to stop street oiling earlier, out of environmental concerns.
During this year’s budgetary process, the city’s elected officials will look at a handful of options with regard to the asphalt paving program.
By maintaining the current annual funding of $2.16 million per year, the overall PQI will fall below 50 by 2018.
Increasing annual funding to $2.9 million per year would also result in continued deterioration, with the city reaching an overall PQI of 55 by 2022, a number representing near total failure for all roads. Increasing funding to $3.5 million per year would result in an overall PQI of 57 by 2022.
The suggested funding increase is $4 million per year, Hicks’ report reads, which would maintain road conditions at their present below average state.