Monday, January 10, 2011

Roads Eat Capital Budget

Roads are eating their way into local taxpayers pockets in a big, ongoing way. CATCH is reporting that the draft budget for Hamilton allocates "Nearly one-quarter of this year’s spending...for roads. But that $52.65 million is still $85.35 million less than staff believe is required....Roads are forecast to consume 45 percent of the capital budget over the next decade."

One year ago, this discussion took place, revealing the underlying cost pressure of building roads - not much has changed in practice, but perhaps with Bratina now as Mayor, this issue will be more closely scrutinized.

Downtown councillor Bob Bratina and the general manager of public works, Gerry Davis, transcribed by CATCH.

Bratina: Gerry, how much does it cost to maintain a lane kilometre ?
Davis: Summer and winter included, it’s approximately $10,000 per lane kilometre.
Bratina: How many lane kilometres have we added in the last ten years, roughly?
Davis: We’ve added, I would say, probably upwards 500-700 lane kilometres.
Bratina: A year, on average?
Davis: On average about 50 or 70 a year, Rick? So 60.
Bratina: So if we can’t afford to maintain these lane kilometres of road, why do we add them?
Bratina was calling the city on this again in June 2010
“This looks to me like somebody’s got four clunker cars they can’t afford to fix, so he goes out and buys another car,” the ward two councillor observed. “And the comment that I hear at the table today is well the province didn’t give us enough money to fix these roads. I’m not very good at this accounting stuff, but this seems fairly simple to me. We keep building infrastructure we can’t afford to fix.”
City finance chief Rob Rossini responded that the report showed “how much stuff we actually own” and suggested that reduction is one of the objectives of the province in requiring the reports.
“Part of the rationale for the province doing this is for municipalities to look at their assets as to which ones do we still need, which ones can we surplus and rationalize on a going forward basis,” Rossini noted. “So I think that’s part of the underlying thing that the province wants us to do.”
Does Hamilton have too much road? Can we look at saving money (not to mention the environment) by rationalizing and reducing redundant roadways? Road diets?

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