Jeff Green | Feb 23, 2006
Feature Article - February 23, 2006
Feature ArticleFebruary 23, 2006
Thougths on winter road maintenance
Editorial by Jeff Green
As this icy winter begins to wind down, there seems to be no consensus about the state of the roads. The debate about road maintenance has been particularly vociferous in Central Frontenac, with Councillor Logan Murray bringing the issue up at council, and various people weighing in on a weekly basis with letters to the editor.
Some people say the road crew is doing a commendable job, and the roads are well maintained under some extreme circumstances. Still others think the entire winter road maintenance is being poorly handled and new management practices are necessary.
To a certain extent, people’s attitudes are determined by their expectations. Some say that people who live on back roads should be prepared to stay home when conditions are extreme, while others think the roads can and should be made drivable under most circumstances.
I find myself conflicted about this question. Living at the end of a small township road, I sometimes think the crews have forgotten about me, and that I might not get out until the spring. On other occasions I find that crews have arrived before I expected them to, and that I have received service beyond what I can reasonably expect.
In the end, I really can’t say if I agree with Logan Murray and many of the letter writers who say winter maintenance in Central Frontenac is abysmal compared to South or North Frontenac, or with Mayor MacDonald who says that the road crews are doing a heroic job, working 24 hours a day and delivering the best service anywhere.
I did gain a perspective on the whole matter this past weekend, and it was not from driving through the different Frontenac townships comparing weather and road conditions, or from talking to public works managers about what kinds of practices they have put in place.
I gained this new perspective by going to Ottawa . On Saturday night and Sunday morning, a day and a half after the latest rain/ice/snow event, the residential streets in the middle of Ottawa had mounds of hard-packed, ice-covered snow piled up everywhere. The single lanes of road surface in the centre were barely dotted with gravel, and cars were sliding every which way.
When two cars approached each other, one had to pull into a driveway, or climb up on a pile of snow to let the other pass.
People were able to get through, mainly because the roads are flat, and the side roads are never too far from main roads, which were dry. It also helps that there are people everywhere, most of who are willing to give stuck drivers a push out when necessary.
These side roads are packed with houses, and represent million of dollars worth of assessment on every block, and yet their winter road maintenance is horrendous.
This observation doesn’t change anything about the heated debate here in Central Frontenac, but it does show that city road maintenance is no better; in fact from what I saw it is worse, and they don’t even have hilly gravel roads to deal with.
No matter, within a couple of months it will be spring and we can forget about winter road maintenance for another year. -JG