On Thursday the Public Works Committee examined a report on Regina’s road and bridge network. As the report outlined, the city currently faces a $261 million backlog in work that needs to be done. At present we spend $15 million a year on road maintenance. Eighty per cent of that money is spent on 20 per cent the road network that carries most of the traffic. That would include main arterials like Albert, Broad, Victoria, Lewvan, etc.
Regina currently has 926 km of asphalt roads, 59 per cent of which are classed as residential. It’s those roads (like the one above in Whitmore Park) that, as they age and wear out, are creating a massive backlog of needed repairs. The report added that 85 per cent of the arterial network was in fair to good condition, while only 45 percent of the residential network was in fair or good condition. And in the last 20 years that network had “deteriorated significantly”.
If Regina continues at its current pace of spending $15 million a year on road maintenance, the report concluded, the backlog of overdue work will grow to $523 million in 2033. It also needs to be remembered that every year Regina is adding more kilometres to its road network as the city continues to tack on new subdivisions in outlying areas. So the situation will only get worse.
No matter what sort of lifestyle we lead, everyone who lives in Regina benefits from our road network. Cyclists use the road; transit users use the road; when we go to stores to shop, we purchase goods that were delivered by truck; we rely on police, fire and ambulance services to protect ourselves and our homes, etc. So it’s only right that all citizens contribute to road maintenance through taxes.
But people who live in low density neighbourhoods, and those who insist on driving over-sized vehicles on long commutes, obviously exact a heavier toll on our road network than those who lead more sustainable lifestyles. A way needs to be found to hold them accountable for the true cost of their lifestyle because otherwise everyone, no matter how frugally they try to live, seems destined to absorb a hefty property tax hit in the next while as we step up maintenance on our crumbling road network.
More needs to be done at the provincial and federal level, too, to provide revenue-generating options for municipalities in recognition of the shift that’s occurring toward urban living in our country. But overall, the report offers a much needed reality check on Regina’s 1970s era, vehicle-dependent, suburban lifestyle.