Big bump in damage claims points to funding hole, councillor says

Ottawa's particularly pockmarked streets this spring could be a symptom of a much larger hole — a $70 million funding gap for road and infrastructure maintenance — according to Coun. Diane Deans.

City received hundreds of property damage claims related to potholes

The number of claims filed against the city for pothole damage from January to June doubled in 2017 compared to the previous year. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

This year's particularly pockmarked streets could be a symptom of a much larger hole — a $70 million funding gap for road and infrastructure maintenance — according to Coun. Diane Deans.

The major bumps and dips drivers have traversed all over Ottawa resulted in 778 damage claims filed against the city in the first six months of the year. That's nearly double as many as the same time frame last year.

"We're just not able to keep up with the problems that are created on our roadways," Deans said.

Council approved nearly $3 million to fill potholes and repave roads this spring. Crews filled 22,770 more potholes in the first half of this year than they did the year before.

City staff pointed to the many freeze-thaw cycles experienced this winter as the reason for the road poor conditions. But Deans said until council fills its funding gap roads will likely continue to crumble each year.

Coun. Diane Deans said increased number of pothole damage claims filed against the city could be a sign of crumbling infrastructure. (CBC)

"I don't think that we can just turn a blind eye to the reality that our infrastructure is starting to fail," she said.

City treasurer Marian Simulik alerted council to the funding gap in June as part of an update on the city's long range finance plan.

In her report, Simulik warned council should find the money in the next five years.

Payouts could point to problems

The $515,487 paid out this spring for property damage claims might mean crews are falling behind on repairs as well, Deans said. Claims are usually only paid out if the city doesn't fix a pothole in a timely fashion.

It's not clear how much of this year's payout went toward pothole damage claims. Deans has asked the city solicitor to report back with that figure.

It will be easier and cheaper in the long run to make sure roads are in good shape to begin with, she said.

Her warning comes as the city prepares to solicit public feedback on next year's budget.

Roads to be focus of budget

Coun. Riley Brockington said he expects road maintenance to be a major issue during the budget debate.

"I do believe our infrastructure is safe, but it's certainly showing its age," Brockington said. "It's time for a facelift."

He's also concerned about the quality of road repairs he's seen over the last few years, citing the Airport Parkway. It was recently resurfaced but the pavement is already starting to flake.

"I don't believe weather is the sole contributing factor to the deterioration of our roads," Brockington said.

The city may need to consider spending more on higher-quality materials for road maintenance and construction to avoid costly repair down the line, he said.