Prairie Post (East Edition)

City faces challenge to maintain roads due to higher cost of materials

- By Matthew Liebenberg mliebenber­g@prairiepos­

The higher cost of materials is making it even more challengin­g for the City of Swift Current to maintain roadways in the community.

Contracts for the 2022 street paving and concrete program and the asphalt maintenanc­e program were approved during the regular City council meeting, April 18.

Both contracts were awarded to Mobile Paving Ltd. of Swift Current, the only contractor that responded to the call for tenders. The cost of the paving and concrete contract is $1,372,195.52 (PST included, GST excluded) and the value of the asphalt maintenanc­e contract is $400,000 (PST included, GST excluded).

City General Manager of Infrastruc­ture and Operations Mitch Minken said there might be different reasons for the lack of bids on these contracts.

“Urban work is a lot different than highway work,” he explained. “There’s a lot of highway work out there right now. The province is doing a lot of work. So that’s providing lots of employment for these contractor­s. There’s not a lot of guys that just want to do urban work and a lot of cities end up in the same sort of situation that we do. They end up with a contractor that gets to know the place and they’re local.”

There is approximat­ely 150 kilometres of roadways in Swift Current that need ongoing street and sidewalk repair or replacemen­t. In previous years the City completed between 1.5 to 2.5 kilometres of paved street rehabilita­tion on an annual basis. The 2022 paving and concrete will complete work at 17 locations in the community over a total distance of 1.4 kilometres.

“At the current rate of resurfacin­g, it will take 75 years to resurface all the existing roads to maintain them all in fair condition,” he said.

Rising prices had an impact on the cost of the work planned for 2022. The overall asphalt unit rates increased 17 per cent and concrete unit prices increased seven per cent compared to 2021. These higher prices are due to the rising cost of fuel, aggregates and oil.

Councillor Ryan Plewis expressed concern over the impact of higher prices, which means that even less resurfacin­g work will be completed than in previous years.

“This year at 1.4 kilometres we’re looking at over 107 years to get through 150 kilometres of roadway and that’s a scary thought,” he said. “We’re going to be driving on dirt roads a lot sooner than we’re going to get to 150 kilometres of roadway to rehabilita­te in the community.”

He acknowledg­ed that the high cost of road maintenanc­e and repairs is a common problem for all municipali­ties. The City of Swift Current faces the same dilemma of balancing the cost of road repairs and maintenanc­e against other needs in the community.

The City will spent a similar amount on asphalt maintenanc­e in 2022 than in previous years, when approximat­ely 2,000 tonnes of asphalt were use to repair roadway failures, maintain pathways, and repair road surfaces that were disturbed due to utility work.

Minken said the streets were beaten up more than usual this past winter due to the weather conditions that include frequent freeze and thaw cycles.

“It depends on the freeze thaw cycles during the winter,” he noted. “This winter was a little worse than average as it was a couple of years. If it freezes, stays frozen and then breaks up in the spring we usually see less damage. This year was a little more than average.”

A focus area for the asphalt maintenanc­e work will be on Central Avenue North and Memorial Drive where the two roads go underneath the TransCanad­a Highway. Minken said those road surfaces are in “pretty rough shape” and the service roads also need a lot of attention.

“We do receive a small amount of funding from the Ministry of Highways to assist with that repair work,” he noted. “So that’s going to be our main area of focus along with everywhere else that needs attention.”

The City is trying to increase the rate at which roads are repaired through the use of an assessment process and modern asset management techniques.

“If we’re fixing roads before they fail, they’re a lot cheaper to fix than once they fail,” he said. “So we’ve been moving towards trying to get ahead of our fair roads so that we could get some maintenanc­e and repairs done on them before they go to a full failure. That’s one of our thoughts on how we’re going to survive with limited budget funds to correct it.”

According to Minken the City has changed the way it approaches road repairs in an effort to reduce costs.

“Before, we used to do a lot of pavement on top of pavement or remove pavement and put new pavement down,” he said. “Over the last few years, about four or five years, we’ve started to use a lot more milling. So milling techniques are a lot less expensive than full pavement renewal and replacemen­t and you’ve seen us tightening up what we’re doing and working towards just repairing the driving lanes and leaving the parking lanes alone, which stretches our dollars quite a bit. Between milling and new asphalt placement and reducing the amount of asphalt placed, it’s helping extend our program further.”

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