Everybody in Edmonton, it seems, is complaining about potholes.

This is a yearly phenomenon in Edmonton that arrives as surely as the first snows of October, and the last snows of April … or May. It’s all part of the rich fabric of life that is being an Edmontonian.

Up until today, I thought all the griping was just typical Edmonton bitchiness. I mean, potholes are a universal problem. And if you think we have it bad, check out the Winnipeg Free Press “pothole cam” of one particularly bad street. http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/multimedia/video/local/pothole-cam-highlight-reel-200280681.html

Even after last week, when my son got a flat tire and lost a hubcap on a particularly cavernous pothole — driving MY car — I wasn’t convinced that this year was any worse than any other.

But today, in my brief drives around town, I have to agree with my fellow Edmontonians — our roads are a disgrace to a so-called ‘major’ city.

There are streets in this city — heavily used, major arteries — that are perilously close to being unnavigable. A prime example is 112th Avenue, which sees thousands of vehicles a day, which is more rut than road. Parts of 69th Avenue are nearing collapse.  There’s a pothole in a road near my son’s house that has gone beyond being a mere hole to being a chasm.

I would hate to be squiring a visitor around Edmonton today; it’s actually embarrassing.

City officials and apologists offer up the same explanations: Edmonton is a northern city, we have freeze-and-thaw cycles, our ground is sandy, blah blah blah. Well, sorry, I don’t buy it anymore.

I think it’s time Edmonton commissioned an outside consultant to conduct a comprehensive, from the ground up review of how we build our roads. Do we have the right approach? Are we using the right building materials? Is there anything that we should be doing that we aren’t doing? Are we using cutting edge technologies (if there are cutting edge technologies) in road building? Can we spend more money on roads that last longer? Are we better off, or worse off, than other similar cities? Maybe it’s time we took some of the millions we spend on massive construction projects every summer and just turned that money over to rebuilding some of our decaying roads.

I hate to sound like one of those old goats who write letters to the editor or gripe on open line radio, but we should not contemplate spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a shiny new hockey arena if we can’t even keep our roads in passable shape.


7 thoughts on “Potholes: the shame of the city.

  1. I couldn’t agree more Maurice. Each time I swerve to avoid a crater I think of Hizzoner Mandel’s efforts to “brand” Edmonton as a world class city with bike trails on major thoroughfares and the new art gallery (a whole other rant on that white elephant another day), etc. all in the name of attracting hip, “vibrant” professionals here. You know what a “world class” city does Steve? Picks up trash regularly, builds & maintains roads properly, and clears them of snow in a timely manner in winter. Wanna be world class? Start with the fundamentals!

  2. I would guess rebuilding the subbase of the roads could help avoid the problem (will have to see how the Henday is holding up in 10 years) but doing so in the city would likely be hugely expensive with very long road closures as the soil is replaced 6 or more feet down.

    Would it be worth it in the end? I doubt it.

  3. I think you SHOULD send this in to the Letters to the Editor. Thanks for the link to Winnipeg potholes but I think they are just as bad here. It’s like driving in Beirut. (well, what I imagine Beirut is like)

  4. Calvin Caldwell
    Thank good ole Ralph Klein, the Tories and their proud slaying of the deficit at the expense of maintenance of infrastructure of Alberta’s cities. Oh yeah, and every person killed on Highway 63 is a notch on their gun.
    Like · Edit · 1 hour ago

  5. I’ve done a bit of reading about asphalt and have discovered that it varies in quality. Some cities require high grade asphalt improved for example with additives. I’d like to see an investigation into this. We see the evidence of difference in quality by the differences in road conditions around the city, with some roads disintegrating and yet others remaining in pretty good condition. Let’s find out what’s going on.

  6. In past year I’ve been of the “stop whining” camp, but I have to agree that this year’s cop is the worst I can remember. The city actually agrees.

    The reason is actually simple: road maintenance was cut by $41 million last year. Bad roads heading into winter=terrible roads coming out of winter.


    Short-sighted thinking that will probably cost more to fix, never mind the repair bills for our cars.

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