City faces ‘back­log of re­pairs’ for street lights

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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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