Manitoba

Drivers deal with vehicle damage as potholes open up across Winnipeg amid freeze-thaw cycle

As the province deals with warm spells, rain, snow and sub-zero temperatures this spring, Winnipeg is seeing more and more potholes.

City says it's patched 30,000 potholes since January, but some patches are 'popping out'

Elaine Labdon's car blew two tires after she hit a pot hole while driving on Portage Avenue. (Emily Brass/CBC)

A Winnipeg midwife was on her way to facilitate a birth on Tuesday morning when she hit a pothole, popping two tires.

Elaine Labdon was driving down Portage Avenue in the city's Deer Lodge neighbourhood at about 8 a.m. when it happened.

"I was just literally just weaving in and out, just trying to avoid [potholes] and other people trying to avoid them. So it's pretty bad." 

Then she hit a pothole and her tires "popped straight away."

As the province deals with warm spells, rain, snow and sub-zero temperatures this spring, Winnipeg is seeing more and more potholes. 

The driver's side tires on Elaine Labdon's car blew out after she hit a pothole in Winnipeg on Tuesday. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

"This is probably the worst winter since we've been here, and I guess it just wrecks the roads," Labdon said.

Tow truck driver Carlos Moyano came to help Labdon with her car.

He says the last few weeks have been challenging, and he's picked up vehicles with between one and four blown tires at a time.

CAA towed Elaine Labdon's car after she blew two tires on Tuesday. The agency says it received an above average number of calls for service on Monday, some of which were due to pothole damage. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

"The city is so terrible for driving. There's no safety, there's so many holes," he said.

"It's necessary to drive careful and slowly and [look] all the time on the street, on the road."

City crews stretched thin

Manager of streets maintenance for the City of Winnipeg Michael Cantor said crews are patching about 700 potholes daily and has temporarily fixed about 30,000 potholes since January.

One issue crews are facing is that patches are "popping out" amid the dramatic weather changes.

"Sometimes we have to go and patch the same potholes in the same day a few times ... So it's really a chase, at this point, to patch as many as possible as they're popping out," Cantor said.

The city is looking to scale up its pothole repair operation, but recently workers have been diverted to steam manhole covers, filling sandbags and snow clearing.

"We're looking to increase that as the other activities are subsiding," Cantor said. "There were four major activiites that were happening at the same time for the last week or so."

Potholes on Osborne Street at York Avenue in downtown Winnipeg expose old streetcar rails. (Emily Brass/CBC)

Even so, the city called spring labourers into work earlier than normal to help address the excess of work.

Labdon recognizes that the city has its hands full, but thinks it's important to fix the big holes to protect people and their vehicles.

"It's dangerous because people are really trying to slam on brakes and stop and swerve. I'm sure there's more accidents and people are getting their cars damaged."

CAA Manitoba says it doesn't track vehicle damage related to potholes, but Monday's tow numbers were higher than average, and there was a backlog on Tuesday morning.

"Those numbers will include pothole damage, and due to the weather and state of the roads, it's likely the uptick in numbers is due to pothole damage, but we can't say for sure," provincial communications manager Elisha Dacey said in an email.

Driver Stephen Yugbovwre says he's found potholes everywhere he drives in the city.

"I think the city has to do something about it," he said. "They have to commit to making good roads for us, because it's terrible. What's the tax money for?"

The city is warning drivers to slow down and drive to road conditions, bearing in mind that potholes may be present on city streets.

Winnipeggers can report potholes to the city by contacting 311, or by filling out an online form. The locations of very large or deep potholes that pose an imminent safety concern are forwarded directly to field crews for immediate attention.

NDP calls on province to address potholes

Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew called on Premier Heather Stefanson to address the road situation, which seems "worse than ever," in Question Period on Tuesday.

"I hope that Manitobans keep in mind the PC's responsibility for this. We know that they have under spent on infrastructure ever since they took office and they have frozen funding for municipalities," the Opposition leader said.

"Will the premier reverse course and provide more money to fix roads and potholes that are killing us right now?"

Stefanson shot back at Kinew, accusing the previous NDP government of doing much the same.

She added the province has given a three-year plan of $500 million a year to municipalities, but potholes fall under the local government's agenda.

"We'll continue to work with those municipalities."

Pothole dangers

2 months ago
Duration 2:05
Pothole season is here and before long, many Manitoba drivers could face the jolt of repair costs caused by the roads and highways they drive on.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rachel Bergen is a journalist for CBC Manitoba and previously reported for CBC Saskatoon. Email story ideas to rachel.bergen@cbc.ca.

With files from Emily Brass and Philip Paul-Martin

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