Thunder Bay

'Treacherous' potholes wreaking havoc on northern Ontario roads

A snowy spring in northern Ontario is wreaking havoc on many roads throughout the region, with the latest edition of an annual survey showing people want their voices heard.

Thunder Bay has two "worst roads" in the north and eastern region, according to CAA

The city of Thunder Bay says crews are working to respond to potholes in high traffic areas. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

A snowy spring in northern Ontario is wreaking havoc on many roads throughout the region, with the latest edition of an annual survey showing people want their voices heard.

CAA this week wrapped up its "worst roads" campaign in Ontario, which had a 16 per cent increase in participation compared to previous years.

"They really want to be heard," said Julie Beun, director of communications and public relations for CAA North and East Ontario, referring to this time of year as "pothole season."

"We've been seeing this year a lot more reports of really treacherous potholes … We're still seeing snowy conditions. We're still seeing rain getting into the existing potholes and cracks and things getting worse and worse."

The not-for-profit auto club will take the results of the survey, which was launched in March, and form a report with the gathered information. Beun said the report will be released to show public perception of the state of roads in the province.

"They can use that as a whole data set that they can say, okay, here's where people are actually reporting poor roads or crumbling infrastructure and they can prioritize accordingly," she said.

The city of Thunder Bay purchased the The Python 5000 in 2017 to help fill potholes in the city. (Amy Hadley/CBC)

According to CAA, two Thunder Bay roads made it onto a list of 20 "worst roads" in north and eastern Ontario for 2022, while the rest can be found in Ottawa, Timmins, North Bay, and Sudbury areas.

This year, those Thunder Bay roads are Arthur Street West and Memorial Avenue.

In 2021, the roads in the poorest conditions were Tokio Street in Thunder Bay, Barrydowne Road in Sudbury and Third Avenue West in North Bay, according to CAA.

"We do see that some roads that make it onto the worst roads list do get pretty good attention from the municipalities. They are paying attention. They are responding. But there are other roads that for one reason or another do not get major infrastructure updates," Beun said.

Apart from an increased uptake in the campaign participation, CAA is also seeing an increase of calls for road assistance this year, according to Beun.

She said things like blown tires and bent rims are usual suspects in the region, which many people end up paying out of pocket to fix.

Climate a challenge when it comes to potholes

Beun said she suspects the poor state of roads in the region is likely due to a number of factors — primarily weather — but also could be due to budget reallocation in some municipalities due to the pandemic.

She said many people are out driving more often since pandemic restrictions eased and as more people transition out of working from home, leading to a feeling of more "personal ownership" over roads.

While the climate in Thunder Bay and many parts of northern Ontario make road work difficult, this winter certainly didn't make things easier.

A series of big weather events and the current freeze thaw cycle are big factors behind the state of the roads, according to the Thunder Bay's roads supervisor.

"It seemed like we were getting a storm every couple of days and that really didn't provide us enough time in between to go fill the holes as we normally would during the winter season," Ian Spoljarich said.

Spoljarich said the current conditions are also making it difficult for patching material to stick. He said drier conditions and drier roads will help the process.

For now, Spoljarich said the city will continue to respond to issues on the road as soon as possible while continuing to focus on high traffic arterial and collector streets.

With files from Mary-Jean Cormier