Icy sidewalks a slippery subject as city sets roads budget
New standards won't be in place for 2 or 3 years
Residents descended on Ottawa City Hall Friday to demand something be done about sidewalks that have become treacherous and impassable as layers of ice continue to build underfoot.
Terrie Meehan told councillors on the city's transportation committee how her wheelchair has seen so much wear and tear this year it needs replaced. She said some friends have been unable to leave their homes, period.
"That's scary. I want you to really think about your most vulnerable citizens," Meehan admonished.
As our weather patterns change, people can't remain imprisoned in their own homes.- Coun. Riley Brockington
Councillors were sympathetic, and said their offices have been flooded with calls.
"The ice is incredible, it's really incredible," Coun. Riley Brockington said. "We can't rely on the status quo. As our weather patterns change, people can't remain imprisoned in their own homes."
The city is boosting its snow-clearing budget by $2.4 million to $70.8 million, but as in previous winters, it might be too little, too late: Ottawa tends to run a deficit when it comes to winter operations, and this year is shaping up to be no different.
Within that winter maintenance budget, $9 million goes toward sidewalks each year, but pedestrians have noticed this year has been especially brutal.
Coun. Mathieu Fleury has been pushing for years for streets and sidewalks near schools and long-term care homes to be maintained at a higher standard.
"We're hearing more and more that that's the core of the challenge," he said.
City staff will review maintenance standards, which haven't been updated since 2003. The review should be complete and any changes implemented by the winter of 2022-23.
"When the standards were done the focus on pedestrian movements wasn't what it is today," said Coun. Stephen Blais, who chairs the transportation committee. "Frankly, the focus on walking and cycling in the suburbs wasn't what it is today."
Breaking the ice
The city is testing five new ice breakers to keep sidewalks clear of ice buildup, and officials say so far, the three-year pilot project is going well.
Winter maintenance spending is just one piece of the transportation department's $286.7-million operating budget for 2019 — a $6.7-million increase over 2018.
Then there's the $290.5-million capital budget —money set aside to fix potholes, resurface roads, build cycling lanes and slow traffic in neighbourhoods.
The budget for asphalt repair rises by nearly $1 million to a total of $9 million, while road resurfacing gets $49 million.
The city will spend $23 million to widen Strandherd Drive from two lanes to four between Maravista Drive and Jockvale Road in Barrhaven, a stretch residents have branded one of the most snarled in the city.
Each councillor will also receive $50,000 a year to install flexible sticks, speed boards and other traffic calming devices in their wards, $10,000 more than they got during the last term of council.