Icy road ruts frustrate Winnipeg's mayor, firefighters

Winnipeg's mayor says snow-plowing crews could be doing a better job clearing snow-covered and rutted streets, but he adds that he's not responsible for the bumpy roads.
Deep, icy ruts on a number of Winnipeg's major streets continue to frustrate many people, including the city's mayor, who says street-clearing crews are not doing a good enough job. 1:52

Winnipeg's mayor says snow-plowing crews could be doing a better job clearing snow-covered and rutted streets, but he adds that he's not responsible for the bumpy roads.

Mayor Sam Katz admitted on Monday that streets have not been cleared to his satisfaction.

"There's slippery spots out there. There's ruts, it's hard to get out of ruts. Those are problem areas, no question about that," he told reporters.

Plows are supposed to scrape down to the pavement on all major streets. City officials say that was supposed to be done this past weekend, but that didn't appear to be the case along a number of routes on Monday.

Deep ruts remain on a number of major streets, and Katz said some areas have not been cleared well enough.

"It's been substantiated by others that some of the areas, where they've actually gone out and scraped, they haven't done the job 100 per cent," he said.

The mayor said council has set the policy that requires major routes to be plowed almost bare.

However, Katz said neither his office nor council tells crews when to plow, as that's the responsibility of the public works department.

"All I know is they're supposed to do it properly, and they get paid based on doing the job per kilometre. So if it's not done properly, they have to go back and do it," he said.

Katz said snow-clearing crews that are privately contracted will not get paid until the job is done properly.

Ruts cause delays for firefighters

The rutted roads have created delays for firefighters responding to emergencies, according to the union representing them.

Crashes keep MPI busy

At least 1,000 drivers have filed crash-related claims with Manitoba Public Insurance as of Monday afternoon.

An MPI spokesperson told CBC News its call centres have been busy for weeks.

Nearly 20,000 collisions were reported in December — about 20 per cent more than in the previous December.

MPI is recommending that motorists needing to file a crash claim do so during slower periods, namely in the evenings or on Saturdays.

The United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg says there's been a slightly longer response time lately, in large part because of the poor road conditions.

"Our vehicles are not built for these ruts because they're wider than the ruts, so you got to go slower and it just slows everything down," said union president Alex Forrest.

Forrest said the average response time to a fire has been five minutes, when it would normally be four.

That extra time made it impossible for firefighters to contain a house fire on Pritchard Avenue early Monday morning, he said. The blaze spread to a neighbouring home.

As well, Forrest said other fires in the past week have caused more damage because crews could not respond quickly enough.

Forrest said Winnipeg's roads are in the worst condition he has ever seen.

Driving students 'extremely nervous'

The rutted, ice-slicked roads are making new drivers — and their instructors — nervous behind the wheel.

"The biggest challenge for a new driver in this condition is that they don't see the lanes," said Mit Kinnarath, the owner of Metro Driving School.

Kinnarath says some major streets are so bad, some students are cancelling their driving tests.

"It was very surprising to me that a certain stretch of the road could be nice and clean to the bare asphalt, and you go further up or go to a different street, where the ruts still exist," he said.

Even hardy winter cyclists were slipped up by the slippery, bumpy roads on Monday.

"It's pretty bumpy. The corner by Extra Foods there is always really rough," said Jason Therrien, who lost his bike bag and laptop while cycling through St. Boniface to work.

St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes said snow clearing has been a major issue among people in his ward so far this season, and he wants the city to replace the current contractors with new ones.

"They just don't seem to be able to do it in the 12 hours. Maybe they're not putting enough crews on or machines," he said.

"I don't know, I don't really care any more. I just want somebody new in there to get this thing done."


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