Policy in brief
My first priority as mayor would be to ensure basic services are taken care of – we need a city that works. Our roads and pipes need immediate attention to bring them back up to a standard we can be proud of.
What we’ll do in the short term
As mayor, I will work with Council to responsibly phase in a 25% increase in funding for road repair and maintenance over three years – from $160 to $200 million – the amount we know is needed to keep our roads smooth. To deal with the worst stretches of our arterial roads, we’ll start applying the engineering approach from our successful neighborhood street renewal program.
Where we need to be a generation from now
My vision is that within a generation, the value of investing in routine infrastructure maintenance – in good times and in bad – is an undisputed core value in our community. Councils a generation from now should never have to pay for a previous council failing to maintain the infrastructure we rely on every day.
More thoughts from Don
A key priority of my campaign for mayor is building a city that works. I made that pledge the day we launched the campaign, and I’ve confirmed it many times since. Properly maintaining our roads and our pipes is key to our civic pride, and to the attraction and retention of people and investment.
In April 2013, when it had become jarringly apparent that Edmonton roads were in the worst condition they’d been in the collective memory, Council agreed with my suggestion to reallocate $9 million from the 2013 budget for a ‘triage’ roadworks program that targets neighbourhood streets that are pocked and scarred with cracks and potholes. These dollars are going towards grinding and overlay work, which grinds off a road’s top layer and lays fresh, pothole-free pavement, on 50 roads in Edmonton that desperately need it.
But emergency repairs are a reaction — we need to get ahead of the problem. Right now, about 18 percent of Edmonton roads are in fair to poor condition, with many more deteriorating. This is unacceptable. If these roads go unaddressed, our problem will only get worse.
As mayor, I will work with Council to responsibly phase in a 25% increase in funding for roads and sidewalks over 3 years, from the current $160 million to $200 million annually – the number we know is required to properly maintain road infrastructure. It is my expectation that council could use a portion of the savings from my “Council’s 2 percent” policy to fund this key priority for Edmontonians.
But investing your money isn’t the whole answer. Timing our investments is critical. It’s always more cost-effective to maintain infrastructure properly up front than it is to reconstruct something that is broken beyond repair. Previous councils did not take that long view in the past, which is why we have the roads we have today. The challenge for any council is to invest taxpayer dollars wisely, at that crucial moment when a roadway’s structure is still in reasonable shape and the surface can be renewed inexpensively.
There is also a continuing need for research and innovation in paving technology, for better quality control over paving materials, and for collaboration with other northern centres with similar challenges on climate and soil conditions. The City does quality control and joint research with the University of Alberta Faculty of Engineering at our pavement lab. (Here’s a great piece about the people and the work that goes into pavement science in Edmonton.)
This challenge is best met with leaders who do their homework and understand the problem, as I have these past six years.
Right now, we have solid engineering know-how to build upon in the form of our Neighbourhood Renewal Program (of which I have been a champion throughout my two terms on Council). As mayor, I would apply the same engineering approach we’re using on our neighborhood roads to our main roads, starting with the worst stretches of arterial road in the city.
Similar principles of timely maintenance apply to all Edmonton’s infrastructure, including our drainage system, which needs significant upgrades particularly in older parts of the city. During heavy rainfalls, some residents experience flooding in their basements that could be prevented if our drainage system was more robust. The same goes for the handful of roadway sections (Yellowhead Trail under St. Albert Trail comes to mind) that are prone to ponding.
As I’ve said before, I believe we can end yearly debates about the quality of basic city services like roads and snow clearing by finding long-term, consistent solutions to these predictable problems.
This is an engineering challenge, not a political hot potato.
But there’s no question: we have a lot of work left to do in building and maintaining a functional city. The ongoing need for infrastructure renewal will inform many decisions of the next city council.
By 2017, we can be well down the path to a city that works, with another 25 neighbourhoods reconstructed and major arterial roads rehabilitated. In a generation, Edmonton’s infrastructure — our roads, pipes, sidewalks, transit centres, rec centres, libraries and municipal buildings — could be the pride of every community, the stuff Edmontonians value in the place they call home.
My vision is that within a generation, the value of investing in routine infrastructure maintenance – in good times and in bad – will be a given, an undisputed core value in our community. Councils a generation from now should never have to pay for a previous council failing to maintain the infrastructure we rely on every day.