During the public information meeting the City of Thunder Bay held to unveil its new “Maintaining Infrastructure is Cheaper Than Replacing It” line of thinking, Mr. Matson, General Manager of Transportation and Works, told the sparse audience that road construction contracts that are on going in the City right now include all infrastructure located from property line to property line. Sidewalk to sidewalk. Sidewalk, curb and gutter, pavement, manholes, catchbasins, water and sewer lines. The whole nine yards.
This is true in that this stuff is located inside the City of Thunder Bay’s property limits, but not all of it is being replaced. Much is being left untouched. Specifically sidewalks and curb and gutter.
Someone from the Engineering Department which is headed by Pat (Pasquale) Mauro walks through the construction site and decides what stays and what goes. Its all a matter of cost.
The above sidewalk on BatyStreet was given the thumbs up by the City of Thunder Bay inspector during the summer of 2010. Not overly impressive is it. We Bay Street residents pay taxes. Paid them for many, many decades. Construction comes along, finally, and then…..
The City of Thunder Bay’s Engineering Department seems to do things backward. The people in charge come up with a dollar figure and then see how much work can be done with that budget. If one thing goes over budget, then something else must be cut. Its not hard to go over-budget when you have no idea what is laying beneath that asphalt. Plus, the inexperienced contractors that are being awarded these contracts are having a hard time doing the work on schedule.
The proper way to set up a budget for a contract is to see what work needs to be done and cost it out. Throw in some money for contingencies and you should be good to go.
This bring me to the issue of sidewalks. Sidewalks are one of the items that get cut when the money runs out. For some reason, old crumbling curbing and sidewalks are good enough to last another 20 years.
I believe that Mr. Mauro and his band of engineers are not taking sidewalks serious enough. Walking is an important method of travel for thousands of people every day. Sidewalks need to be maintained at a very high level. Also, some thought so be given to the state of the existing sidewalks within any contract limits. I don’t only mean whether they are cracked or not but also if they are level and if water drains away from them.
The above photos are taken of the sidewalk on Algoma Street between Ambrose and Pearl Streets. As you can see, this section of sidewalk was not replaced during the construction that went on last summer/fall.
Its true that the sidewalk is in good physical condition but as you can see, there are problems with it that are easily visible to anyone who cares to look.
The sidewalk is lower than the boulevard and it slopes toward away from the road. Water has no place to go so it will sit here. In the spring, this sidewalk is covered in several inches of water making walking difficult. I believe some thought should have been given to raising the sidewalk up, lowering the road or a combination of both so that water could drain from the sidewalk toward the road.
The above is a sidewalk on Pearl Street between Algoma and Court Streets. The problem is the same as the Algoma sidewalk situation. Old sidewalk, not replaced, water covers sidewalk in spring, pedestrians have a hard time. This section of Pearl Street is only four years old. The deficiencies in the sidewalk were not addressed during construction back in 2007. Now pedestrians have to suffer for another 20 years because….why?
The Engineering Department is called that for a reason. I assume that the people in there, the people in charge, actually do some engineering now and then. Why pay engineers wages if all we get are managers?
The people in charge actually investigate existing conditions so that improvements can be made during contracts when, because of economies of scale, prices are low for concrete work. Prices will never be lower for concrete, gravel and asphalt then when it is part of a large construction project. I do not understand why an extra 50 metres of sidewalk or curbing will break the bank.
By leaving some of the work undone, our infrastructure deficit will never be eliminated. For a few dollars more, ALL the infrastructure with the limits of a contract can be reconstructed. Now is not the time to be cheap.