Manitoba

Winnipeg working group recommends 24/7 construction for faster, more efficient roadwork

The city's road construction working group offered Mayor Brian Bowman several recommendations for improving road construction in Winnipeg, including having construction crews labour under spotlights in addition to sunlight.

Committee recommends better planning, communication and multi-year budgets for work in Winnipeg

Noise restrictions are among issues that may prevent late-night roadwork from moving ahead on many projects. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

Having construction crews labour under spotlights in addition to sunlight is being touted as one of many ways to improve road construction in Winnipeg.

That was one of several recommendations given to Mayor Brian Bowman Wednesday from the city's road construction working group.

St Boniface Coun. Matt Allard chaired the group and framed one of the frustrations he's heard for years from residents.

"A member of the public drives by a construction zone that they've seen empty for several days, and I think the member of the public says, 'Why isn't this site active, and why isn't it being done as soon as possible?'"

Allard says there is work to be done on preparing and planning for work at those sites, and the group is recommending flexible contract administration and start dates to improve productivity. 

Mayor Brian Bowman and working group chair Matt Allard promised to bring the road construction recommendations in front of city council in the fall. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

Extending construction to 24 hours a day, seven days a week, could also boost turnaround times on roadwork sites, Allard said.

The working group includes representatives from the Winnipeg and Manitoba construction associations, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, consulting engineers, and representatives from the city's public works department.

The committee made several suggestions to be presented to Winnipeg's city council in the fall, including:

  • Creating a multi-year construction program with budgets to support the work, and with better tendering processes.
  • Improving communication with residents, drivers and business owners on impending and current road construction projects.
  • Requesting new legislation from the provincial government to require registration of underground infrastructure such as hydro lines, gas pipes and communication wiring.
  • Allowing contractors to work extended hours, including the use of 24/7 construction.

Allard told reporters a formal request for provincial legislation for an underground utility registry hasn't been made.Similar rules have been instituted in Ontario, and Allard touted it as an effective way to better plan for roadwork projects.

Extended hours may be more practical

Extending construction hours may sound appealing — unless you live near a job site. 

A greater use of extended daylight hours roadwork might be more practical, says Jim Berezowsky, the city's director of public works.

One of the many challenges facing the use of around–the–clock roadwork is Winnipeg's network of streets and roads that wind around and through residential and business areas. Noise restrictions would make working at night a non–starter in many locations.

"We would have to look at each project on a case–by–case basis to measure the values of doing the 24/7 versus the extended timeframe over daylight hours," said Berezowsky.

Mayor Brian Bowman campaigned on a promise to look closely at construction practices for roadwork, and at advancing a 24/7 timeframe for some projects.

"It is something that has been discussed for many years. We are trying to act on it," Bowman told reporters at the release of the recommendations on Wednesday.

"There is obviously more work that needs to be done."

The mayor says he's accepted all of the suggestions from the working group and will champion them through motions in front of city council in the fall.

He said he's convinced all the recommendations together, including 24/7 construction for some projects, would mean an improved construction season for residents. 

In response, the city councillor for Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood called Bowman "childish" for not giving some members of council advance notice of the report's delivery.

Nonetheless, Coun. Kevin Klein told CBC News he was in support of a 24/7 construction cycle.

"I would work immediately with industry to introduce three different schedules and determine where each makes sense — 24/7, 12–hour shifts seven days a week, and 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.," Klein said.

The mayor's office responded saying the report had been delivered to all of city council council on Saturday, Aug. 3.

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