The teeth-chattering cold weather on its way out, township residents are now dealing with a teeth-clenching adventure when they venture out on local roads. It’s pothole season, and it’s a doozy this year.
A number of freeze-thaw cycles and fair bit of rain at inopportune times have combined to leave divots in asphalt roads and turn the gravel ones into washboards, notes Jared Puppe, Woolwich’s acting manager of engineering services.
“It’s pretty bad, like it was last year – a perfect storm. It’s pretty messy now.”
Road crews were scrambling this week to patch the holes and get graders onto gravel roads where possible, he said, noting the township has received more than a few calls from residents.
In response, Puppe notes that problem areas are dealt with on a priority basis – through roads are given a higher ranking than lightly travelled routes, for instance. Further complicating matters is the fact that some roads can’t yet handle the heavy equipment needed to do the work.
“Gravel roads are a particular issue,” he said, noting “gravel is more challenging with the weather we’ve had.
“In some cases, you can’t even get equipment on the road.”
Such conditions led the township to close the likes of Fife and Lerch roads near Breslau earlier in the week, as crews were busy with other streets in the township.
By Tuesday, work was underway on Reid Woods Drive near Elmira, for instance, a move welcomed by those who’d been dealing with the poor condition of the roadway.
“We have a lovely property out here, but the road is terrible,” Julie Martin-Jansen, manager of the Elmira District Community Living (EDCL) group home on the township road. “Twelve people live here that are medically fragile.”
The group home sees fairly regular traffic. Besides employees that had to carefully navigate the bumpy ride each day to avoid damaging their cars, the home also receives visits from health professionals. Residents, too, many of who are in wheelchairs, are cautiously driven over the stretch of roadway leading towards Arthur Street.
“It’s doable, we just take our time,” said Martin-Jansen. “Our concern is just for emergency vehicles. And because the individuals that live out here do have to get out every day, to go to work or to go to a program. But because we have medically fragile individuals, we do have need assistance. We have nurses that come out here regularly, we have to get to appointments. So it’s a little bit difficult.”
By Tuesday afternoon, however, a township grader was already evening out the potholes, which had emerged with the snow melt.
“So I guess they’re on it, so that’s good,” said Martin-Jansen positively.
Woolwich councillors meeting Tuesday night noted they had been receiving complaints about the state of the roads.
Coun. Murray Martin acknowledged that the gravel roads in particular have been “extra messy” this year.
“There are some very unhappy people out there,” he said, adding that residents want to know what the township is going to do.
Puppe explained that weather conditions in the last two winters have been particularly hard on the roads.
“Our roads in general have taken a bit of a beating the last couple of years.”
This week, crews were out doing “damage control,” making the roads more passable for now, with the intention of doing longer-term repairs when conditions improve.
“We’ve been working our way around,” said Puppe.
The state of the gravel roads prompted councillors to discuss converting some of the routes into tar-and-chip surfaces, with staff instructed to do a cost-benefit analysis of that course of action.
Martin was particularly adamant about such improvements.
“We should do at least one road every year – that’s not too much to ask for,” he argued of the conversion process.
Coun. Patrick Merlihan suggested the increased costs might require the township to find savings elsewhere, as it’s already having trouble with a growing infrastructure deficit.
“It comes at a cost,” he said of converting roads. “Something’s got to give.
“It’s a big item – we have a lot of gravel roads.”
Puppe noted there are some 126 kilometres of gravel roads in Woolwich.