City urged to keep pace with crumbling roadways

As road-repair construction projects continue to add up, the city is being urged to increase funding to keep pace with the potholes, cracks, and various other hazards faced by motorists on a daily basis.

General Manager of Transportation for the City of Toronto, Gary Welsh, has not spent all the money from last year’s road repair budget, so City Hall only allocated $5 million towards the current road repair construction projects that have not been done on time.

The City of Toronto’s capital budget for 2007 does not address the construction projects that are behind schedule for the city’s infrastructure. A representative for the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) says there still isn’t enough money being directly funded towards reducing the backlog of construction projects for road repairs.

Toronto has a $300-million accumulation of road-repair construction projects, says Tatjana Sulker a media and public relations specialist for the CAA’s south central Ontario division. “He (Welsh) was very disappointed with this $5-million allocation and believes the city should pass a 10-year plan at $30 million a year.”

‘We’re trying to keep pace with it’

Shelley Caroll, budget chief for the city, says the city is doing as much as it can to not let the road repair construction projects accumulation get out of hand.

“We’re trying to keep pace with it,” Caroll said. “But to actually eat into the backlog we need those funding measures changed, and there are three of them: national transit strategy, one per cent of the GST so that we can deal with the growth of the backlog, and uploading such crazy things as the Ontario Drug Benefit Program.”

Regardless of this Sulker believes Toronto just needs to do some preplanning. “They almost need to do the capital budget the year before so that they have enough time in January to plan ahead for the projects,” she said. “How do they plan ahead? By doing the capital budget before (now, so last year).”

She said the province is holding back on funding such programs like the Ontario Disability Support Payment, which falls under provincially mandated programs that account for 32 per cent of the city’s $7.8 billion operating budget. Caroll added they couldn’t take out a loan putting more money towards the construction projects that are behind schedule for road repairs.

Companies take their time to finish

Alex Millan is a 14-year Toronto motorist and construction worker. He says the companies with the contracts take their time to finish construction projects so that the year after they have the same project to complete, with the same salary. He claimed that this is the reason why construction at highway 401 and Yonge St. has been there since last year.

“It’s the companies’ job to worry about getting men and doing it on time this year,” Millan said. “The government, who’s got the budget, has to push for that and say this is my order. If you can’t handle it then we’ve got to look for other companies.”

Caroll says there’s more to getting construction done on time than what meets the eye because a few factors come into play.

“The schedule goes out and they do as much as they can do in terms of whether they can agree on a contract price, and weather plays a big role,” Caroll said.

As of now the city is working with the province to balance the budget because of a $71-million shortfall from provincially-mandated programs. A 3.8 per cent property tax increase plus user fees were proposed recently to offset the imbalance in the capital and operating budget.

On March 7, 2007, city council approved the 2007 Capital Budget as part of the $6.7 billion 2007-2011 five-year capital plan.