The word “sobering” was said several times during Tofino’s Jan. 21 regular council meeting as district leaders digested a roads assessment report that calls for $2.5 million worth of reconstruction and resurfacing work.
Public works foreman Bob Schantz said the district has been looking over its assets for the past few years to develop an assets management plan that will provide a clear picture of incoming costs and McElhanney Consulting Services was hired to assess the roads.
McElhanney’s assessment was based on the criteria and methodology developed by the Ontario Good Roads Association (OGRA), according to Schantz who explained the OGRA was established in 1894 to assist Ontario municipalities build and maintain road networks.
McElhanney looked at gravel roads as well but Schantz said the district deals with gravel roads on a yearly basis.
The OGRA uses two criteria modes to determine the condition of asphalt roads: “ride comfort rating” and “distress manifestation.”
The “ride comfort rating” is determined by an inspector who drives on the roads and the distress manifestation index is a more physical inspection of surfaces that seeks out defects, according to Schantz.
One type of surface defect becoming apparent on Tofino’s roads is alligator cracking-also known as fatigue cracking-that creates a series of connected cracks that form a pattern resembling an alligator, according to Schantz.
“We’re starting to see more and a lot of our alligator cracking is along the edges of the roads because the asphalt has nothing pulling them but a gravel shoulder so it starts to crack and break up,” he said.
A road’s ride comfort rating is meshed with its distress manifestation to determine its pavement condition index score and it must score 75 or higher to pass.
“It’s nice to see that 77 per cent of the roads are in good shape,” Schantz said.
Six of the district’s roads failed to make the grade and McElhanney provided a prioritized list of recommendations and cost estimates. According to the report, the district’s first priority should be to reconstruct the road from First Street to Tofino’s community hall within the next two years at as estimated cost of $168,000.
The second priority listed is to reconstruct Mackenzie Beach Road within the next two years at an estimated cost of $583,000.
Third is the reconstruction of Lynn Road within the next five years at an estimated cost of $1.1 million. Fourth is a section of Gibson Street west of Third Street that should be repaved within the next five years at an estimated cost of $27,000.
Fifth was to reconstruct Hellesen Drive within the next 10 years at an estimated cost of $597,000. The sixth priority identified in the report is to resurface Cedar Street within the next 10 years at an estimated cost of $43,000.
“As I’ve said in my report it’s very sobering to look at the costs of replacing these roads and for a town of our size to have to undertake that task,” Schantz said.
Coun. Al Anderson recalled the district resurfacing Mackenzie Beach Road using a process called seal coating-also referred to as chip sealing-that, he said, cost about $30,000 and was effective for about 10 years.
Schantz said McElhanney had not brought up chip sealing and he added that he has tried to find chip seal contractors on the Island over the past three without success.
“It’s really hard to get in contact with them,” he said. “I get in contact with them and they never return my calls.”
Schantz said the contractor who had originally done the chip sealing work on Mackenzie Beach Road is based on the Mainland.
Anderson said he would put Mackenzie Beach Road before the road to the community hall.
District staff assured council they could rearrange priorities.
“There is a district political discussion to happen that may shuffle some of those around,” said district CAO Bob MacPherson.
MacPherson said there is a general reserve from a 2011 surplus set aside for future works.
“I don’t know off the top what it is; it certainly doesn’t get us very far with any of these projects though,” MacPherson said.
Mayor Josie Osborne said the district faces some tough decisions moving forward but that the report was an important step forward for the district’s asset management plan.
“I’m glad to have the information even though I don’t like the numbers very much,” she said. “What this report does is it gives us that basic technical information that we have to have to add on those other layers of information to begin making good decisions.”
Coun. Dorothy Baert suggested there is a cost to waiting, as roads could deteriorate further and become more expensive to fix over time.
“This is a place where there’s a cost benefit analysis around where you access funds,” she said. “Tax payers of one small period of time might not be sufficient to cover off work that needs to be done…So we need to talk about borrowing here and that too is a problem.”
Baert also noted McElhanney’s report mentions specific areas that need to be repaired along roads that otherwise received a rating over 75.
“It seems there are these spot places where there’s potential for failure and those are the kind of things that also jump out to people more quickly,” she said.
Schantz agreed that these sections will also need to be dealt with.
“There is a couple spots in town where the roads are falling off and that’s something we seriously have to look at,” he said. “It will be a large expense to stabilize those.”
Osborne said the district gets a lot of feedback from about the state of the roads. “It’s really hard to provide an answer when you don’t have it so this is the beginning of something that’s really important.”