Edmonton

Back alley potholes to be fixed as part of neighbourhood renewal

If driving down your back alley loosens the filings in your teeth, help could be on the way - but the solution might mean you have to shake some money out of your wallet.

Potholes in back alleys are lowest priority, take years to repair in some cases

Potholes on arterial and collector roads are given top priority for repairs, which means there are few resources left to fill those in back alleys according to a report going before council on Wednesday. (CBC)

If driving down your back alley loosens the filings in your teeth, help could be on the way - but the solution might mean you have to shake some money out of your wallet.

About 60 per cent of of back alleys in Edmonton need to be replaced, and the work will cost about $120 million, according to transportation manager Gord Cebryk.

One option to fund the work is to create a new levy, which would result in a tax increase for all property owners.

The levy would be used to create a program to replace the alleys in order of priority. Coun. Andrew Knack said that would be the fastest way to fix the problem,

“The back alleys are in too rough of shape not to develop that plan,” Knack said.

This back alley off 71 Avenue is plagued with cracks and potholes. The city's transportation manager said about 60 per cent of all back alleys are in need of a total replacement. (CBC)
Another option is to lump alleys into the Neighbourhood Renewal Program, which fixes streets and sidewalks. In that case, any additional money needed to repair alleys would come from the program budget, but the work might take longer to complete.

Coun. Bryan Anderson said he doesn’t think either solution is fair. Neighbourhood renewal benefits everyone, while back alleys are only in some communities.

“The benefit of having somebody else’s alley paved is zero to me,” Anderson said.

If funding is approved, the earliest the work would start would be 2019, which would give the city time to study underground utilities and consult the neighbourhoods.

Councillors will be presented with several funding options to debate in November.

Road maintenance director Bob Dunford said no matter how the program is funded, it would be more cost-effective than to continue to repave alleys “one pothole at a time.”

Potholes must be dealt with by end of construction season, says councillor

While the city works on it’s long-term plan to address back alleys, Knack wants existing potholes to be dealt with as soon as possible.
Coun. Andrew Knack said he's pleased with the City Auditor's 2017 Municipal election audit. (CBC)

Potholes reported in back alleys are lowest on the priority list for repairs, and are not fixed until a crew happens to be in the area for other reasons.

Knack said he’s heard from people who have reported the same pothole behind their house for three years.

“That’s unacceptable,” he said.

Knack said Edmontonians deserve to know the city's timeline on when back alley potholes will be fixed in their area.

“If you were to call and notify our department that you had a pothole in your back alley, I would expect that by the end of the repair season, which is October, that it would be dealt with,” he said.

Operators on the 311 line will soon be able to give callers a better idea of when potholes in their alleys will be fixed.

Better alleys will be needed

Coun. Scott McKeen said alleyways will become more important and will see more traffic as density increases in mature neighbourhoods.

“You would see garden and garage suites, which may be accessed more from the alley,” he said.

Right now, gravel alleys are standard in most Edmonton neighbourhoods. McKeen said that may have to change as the city moves toward its infill goals.

Communities have the option to pay to have their alleys paved, but Cebryk said that idea doesn’t go over well in many neighbourhoods, and two-thirds of homeowners need to agree before the city can charge for the work.

Even when the city offered to pay for half of the paving, many communities turned them down.

McKeen said the city may have to develop a strategy for improving back alley standards in the future.

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