Older infrastructure needs attention, Watson says
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson is calling on more infrastructure money from upper levels of government for what he calls "less sexy" projects, such as pipe replacements.
Watson said he's grateful for federal and provincial infrastructure stimulus money over the years, but said if they offered it today, he'd chose a different focus.
"Virtually all the infrastructure money that came from the federal and provincial government in the city of Ottawa was for new projects," said Watson.
"My point is the next time we have infrastructure, we have to put it into lifecycle maintenance, not just building new roads like Terry Fox in the west end," he said.
Watson's comments come as the city works to replace a collapsed storm drain that caused a sinkhole to form on Highway 174. On Tuesday an Ottawa man drove his car into the sinkhole but managed to crawl out to safety.
The car was finally removed Friday night.
The city received $250 million from the infrastructure stimulus program in 2009, and almost half — about $111 million — went to extend or widen four roads.
But the stimulus fund also included significant investments to replace sewer and waste-water pipes.
Ontario's Minister of Infrastructure, Bob Chiarelli, said it's up to Watson and other mayors to set the priorities.
"We respond to a request from the municipality, in terms of, whether it's going to be something glitzy that's nice to cut a ribbon at, or whether it's sewer and water that doesn't usually have a ceremony attached to it," said Chiarelli.
The city recently issued a debenture to borrow $300 million for road work and infrastructure, and of that amount, $75 million is earmarked for water and waste-water projects.
Watson said borrowing makes sense to repair long-lasting infrastructure.
"Our argument on debenture is that road or that culvert is going to last another 50 to 75 years, which means that you shouldn't just have this generation of taxpayers paying for it, it should be amortized," said Watson.
The city said it doesn't yet know how much it will cost to repair the sinkhole on Highway 174.