City faces ‘backlog of repairs’ for street lights
The days are short, the nights are long, and a patch of John Bolstad’s neighbourhood is darker than it should be.Bolstad likes to walk his dog in front of Jack Mackenzie School in Windsor Park, where two consecutive street lights have been out of service for well over a month. He said he always uses “extra caution” when he crosses there — but he can’t say the same for the neighbourhood children. “There are lots of kids playing at night, and we’re in the darkest time of the year. I view it as a real safety concern.”The lights emanating from the school parking lot provide some relief. But Bolstad is even more worried about conditions along the city’s major thoroughfares. A mid-december drive around Ring Road reveals dozens of street-light outages, with significant dead spots around the Mcdonald Street and Victoria Avenue interchanges.“That’s where you need them the most, where you’re exiting and entering onto the Ring Road.”The city’s director of transportation and roadways, Norman Kyle, said his department is currently dealing with a “backlog of repairs,” as lights along high-traffic areas fall victim to aging infrastructure and faulty underground cables.He said the city prioritizes repairs based on traffic volumes and the extent of the outage.“Right now we’re working on the area around Ring Road and Victoria Avenue, because it’s one of the highest traffic volume areas of the city,” he said just before the Christmas holidays.By the end of December, the city had fixed two tall mast lights and a row of about a dozen smaller lights along the west side of the Ring Road. But that still left a similar row out along the east side, just north of Victoria Avenue.Once Victoria Avenue is complete, crews will move on to other problem areas along Lewvan Drive, Arcola Avenue and at the Mcdonald Street interchange. The Victoria Avenue interchange should be finished sometime early in the new year, according to Kyle. Work on the rest will be “continuous,” but with no fixed timeline.“With some of the extent of the repairs right now, it’s tough for us to put a timeline on when we will get to all of them,” Kyle said.The city is responsible for maintaining street lights along expressways — including most of the Ring Road — while Saskpower is tasked with repairs along less heavily travelled corridors and in residential areas. That includes the stretch in Bolstad’s neighbourhood.Saskpower spokesman Joel Cherry said crews try to respond to reported outages within seven days — but that’s “not always possible.”He said crews have repaired 4,427 lights in 2018. They use a computer-generated itinerary to map out the most efficient repair route. That means the first light reported might not be the first one fixed.They usually set aside two days each week to focus on “complex” outages, but the winter weather can slow down that work.According to Cherry, a row of dead lights is a likely sign that an underground cable has failed. That’s more time consuming to fix than a burnt-out bulb.“It’s because there’s something going on underground,” he said.Kyle suspects similar issues are plaguing the Victoria Avenue-ring Road interchange, which he said has likely suffered from damaged cables and shorts in the lines.The Mcdonald Street interchange is struggling with aging infrastructure, according to Kyle. He said the lights there have failed numerous times during his tenure as director.Kyle said he can’t assess the impact of the outages on visibility without doing further analysis. He urged motorists to “adjust their driving to road conditions.”Asked why the city-maintained areas seem to have a higher proportion of out-of-service power lights than Saskpower’s, Kyle pointed to potential disparities in workload and type of infrastructure.“They’re dealing with different kinds of lights, different conditions, I would suggest probably different problems,” he said.The city and Saskpower are shifting to new bulbs they hope will ease the burden on their crews. Both are now opting for LEDS, which last as long as 20 years — far longer than a conventional bulb.“We’ll spend a lot less time chasing burnt-out bulbs,” said Cherry.Regina city council voted last month to push the Ministry of Highways for more money to fund lighting improvements on the Trans-canada Bypass near Wascana Parkway. They heard from a mother whose teenage daughter was killed there in 2015.But Bolstad said it’s no good installing new lights if the city can’t keep up with maintaining the ones it already has. He said both authorities should be throwing everything they have at the problem.“If this is a problem throughout the whole city, I think it needs to be addressed with contractors or whatever being hired to maintain this — whatever the cost,” he said.“Solely because of safety of all our children.”
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