Ottawa·ELECTION 2018

The Fix: Engineer embarrassed by Ottawa's pothole-plagued roads

With the Oct. 22 municipal election just around the corner, CBC Ottawa's All In A Day is collecting municipal gripes — and seeking solutions.

Series shares voters' concerns, from affordable housing to potholes

At a special election storytelling pop-up, Mohammad Remezani told CBC's Alan Neal about his biggest beef with the city: potholes. Event participant Alex deVries also shared his ideas for improving the state of Ottawa's roadways. 7:35

With the Oct. 22 municipal election just around the corner, CBC Ottawa's All In A Day is collecting municipal gripes — and seeking solutions.

The show invited eight listeners to share stories about a specific time they've felt let down by the City of Ottawa, from an over-proliferation of potholes to missing sidewalks at bus stops.

Their stories were gathered Oct. 3 at a pop-up community event called The Fix, hosted by CBC Radio's Alan Neal.

Mohammad Ramezani is pursuing a PhD in engineering at Carleton University. He said when friends and family come for a visit, he's embarrassed by state of the pavement on the city's streets.

The cracks and potholes are so bad, his guests sometimes ask if it's earthquake damage, Ramezani said.

"I think part of the problem is the way roads are built, and most of the time we see some of the basic engineering principles are not followed," he said.

More oversight 

Ramezani said he'd like candidates to ask tougher questions about what the city is doing to keep its roads in better shape.

"All our roads are failing, and nobody is questioning whose mistake was that," he said.  

He said building better roads would save taxpayers millions in the long term.

"If any of these roads that they are spending millions of dollars on last 13 years instead of 10 years, we save 30 per cent."

Ramezani believes the fix lies in better training for workers and more careful inspection after roadwork is complete.

All In A Day is committed to pursuing solutions to all of the problems that have been identified as part of The Fix. 

On Monday we heard from the three candidates in College ward about Ramezani's road complaint. Here's some of what they had to say. Their answers have been edited for clarity and length.

Rick Chiarelli

We initiated an audit into the road quality and the asphalt quality last year The audit came back and showed not enough testing was being done, and various steps had to be taken to improve the quality of material being used.

The other issue deals with innovation. What sort of changes or techniques you can use to innovate? I talk to lots of men and women who are out there working our roads or the potholes, and they tell you three or four times a day somebody stops to tell them they know how to do it better.

Our people who do our roads do them all day long. They know them better than anybody.

Many of the solutions that you find on YouTube or places like that turn out to be great in the model stage, but when you get them on the roads they just don't work.

What people probably don't want to hear is that we are putting $70 million less into roads and infrastructure than we need to put in, just to stay where we are. We need a commitment from council to put more money into roads and infrastructure.

Emilie Coyle

We need to build it right at first and we need to hold the contractors we are hiring to industry standards.

A solution to the pothole problem and the roads is really having a strong maintenance regime in place. It is like having a pair of pants, for example.

If you have a brand new pair of pants and you have a tear you can sew it up, but the pair of pants is already very strong and you can continue to sew up the pair of pants and it will be maintained.

So the pair of pants is like the road. If it is a brand new road and you have a little pothole in it and you fix that pothole, because the road is already well built, you can maintain it for the lifecycle of that road.

However, if you don't maintain it properly, that pair of pants — that road — will start to erode faster.

One thing we can do at that City of Ottawa is test strips of prototypes, if that feels like something we want to do.

Ryan Kennery

I have knocked on about 20,000 doors in this campaign and it has come up time and time again, the quality of our infrastructure. Not just our roads, but our sidewalks and cycling infrastructure as well.

We are in the golden age of customer service where you can go and look at reviews online before you procure something. If we are getting one-star service from folks, then we probably shouldn't go back to that same vendor.

We absolutely need to do everything we can in the innovation realm and the maintenance realm to make sure we are putting the dollars where they need to be. It is not just important today, but it is important for the future as well, because we need to build more climate-resilient infrastructure as well.

A lot of the challenges we are seeing with the roads, it is not just what is being done from a maintenance standpoint, but we are seeing harsher winters, hotter summers, more extreme weather. It is more important than ever we find solutions to these things that are cost-effective, that are affordable in the long run to make sure that we have infrastructure befitting a G20 capital.—

with files from CBC's All in A Day