Winnipeg's brutally cold winter has thrust the city in an infrastructure crisis, with people now having to deal with potholes in addition to water main breaks and frozen pipes.
Milder temperatures in recent days combined with snow clearing have uncovered big, deep potholes on numerous streets across the city.
CAA Manitoba said the City of Winnipeg should be better prepared to deal with potholes and other winter-related problems — before they even become problems — rather than playing catch up.
President Mike Mager said he thinks this could be the worst year ever for potholes based on what he’s seen so far.
"We've got roads now that are downright dangerous," he said.
"They're simply larger, bigger, deeper than anything we've ever seen, and we're coming into what we suspect will be the worst pothole season that we've seen in a very, very long time."
Numerous drivers have noted the pock-marked streets, especially in the St. James area. Some have seen rebar poking out of potholes on St. James Street itself.
"Last year was the worst year I've ever seen in four years of driving. This year, it's going to be a bumper crop," courier Bill Fraser said Tuesday.
Fraser said even though he tries to drive around potholes, there are just too many to avoid.
"Half the time you have a big truck in front of you, you can't even see the potholes, you go right through them," he said.
Catch basins not cleared
Stephen Sumka, a retired Winnipeg deputy fire chief, said many catch basins across the city haven't been cleared of snow, leaving water to pool, which in turn eats away at the pavement.
Sumka said the city needs more resources because staff can't keep up.
“If we clear those catch basins now, the water will flow. We won't have the pooling,” he said. “We won't prevent them totally but we'll lessen the opportunity for potholes and damage to our streets.”
Homeowners can do their part by clearing catch basins on their front street and in back lanes, he said.
The city said three crews have been deployed since February to repair potholes and more will be sent out to ramp up the efforts soon. They are using a combination of asphalt transporters and manual patching techniques to fill the potholes.
'Relentless winter' to blame
Jim Berezowsky, the city's manager of streets maintenance, said the potholes problem has been created by a long, cold winter and a deeper frost line than normal.
"That's going to take some time to leave the soil, so what we're going to see is a pothole season that's probably much longer than we've experienced in the past," he said.
Engineering experts say potholes and frozen pipes aren't the only consequences of this cold winter.
"This winter in particular has been relentless and so severe that frost penetrated deeper than it has ever in the past," said Ahmed Shalaby, head of the Department of Civil Engineering at the Unviersity of Manitoba.
"All utilities are suffering from the severe winter. Roads are only the beginning."
Officials are encouraging Winnipeggers to report pothole locations by contacting 311.
Meanwhile, CAA says it will launch its annual worst roads campaign on March 25, with St. James Street a likely contender for the top spot.