Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Comment: Victoria council finally commits to fix its failing roads

With deferred maintenance during the last two decades, it seems there is no shortage of roads needing work.

A commentary by the vice-chair of Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria, a non-partisan citizens advocacy group for municipal taxpayers.

The bucolic small town of Trento in northern Italy is worth visiting for the beautiful alpine scenery, imposing medieval structures, charming houses, and fascinating museums.

It’s also home to the ancient Court of Penitence every summer, when politicians attend a mock trial for having disgraced themselves by not doing their job properly.

In most places in British Columbia, politicians continue on as before, quit in shame, get defeated at the next election, or more likely, go on to higher office for non-performance.

But in Trento, much to the delight of the hundreds that gather, one of the politicians is ridiculed by putting them in a cage. Then they are hoisted up in a crane and briefly dunked in the river. The objective of the ancient ritual of course is not to harm anyone.

It’s the sort of story that comes to mind when driving or cycling around the City of Victoria and trying to understand why the roads are dreadful.

In 2012, 85 per cent of all roads were judged to be in very good or good condition. By 2022, that plummeted to 23 per cent.

You may have noticed by the number of road crews and detours, favourable weather has helped them make good progress this year.

Roads play a vital role to move people, services and goods, serving residents, the business sector, the tourism industry, and regional transit providers.

It’s a prosperous and growing community located in a mild climate with an abundance of sensible residents.

The awful road conditions came to light during recent budget preparations when the council viewed the most recent condition assessment of the system.

Based on historical investment levels and deferred maintenance during the last two decades — particularly during the last two administrations — it seems there is no shortage of roads needing work.

Clearly, council beggared roadwork budgets for years and did not keep pace with increased material and labour costs and inflation.

Now, to the relief of rattled residents and visitors – including the new council who probably heard about dunking rituals in Italy – significant resources are finally being committed to road infrastructure and maintenance.

The 2023 five-year financial plan for the city calls for more roads to be rehabilitated.

For major roads this year, $6.6 million will rehabilitate nine kilometres in 2023. Budget increases are planned for subsequent years to fix 12 kilometres of major roads annually.

As for local streets, $5 million will rehabilitate seven kilometres of road in 2023. Significant budget increases are planned for subsequent years to fix 9.5 kilometres.

Over and above this, money will be spent on fixing potholes, traffic calming measures, speed bumps, curb extensions, medians, and of course, building and maintaining kilometres of bike lanes.

Mayor Marianne Alto, in her fall election platform, promised enhanced budgets for roads, even using the slogan “No pothole left unfilled.”

Street repairs will be aided now by a new pothole finder which uses AI (Artificial Intelligence) to help pave the way for a smoother ride.

The options to rehabilitate rapidly deteriorating road conditions though are much more expensive and disruptive.

So the city is adopting a different approach to maintenance, one that is practised by many other North American communities.

To slow the degradation of the entire roadway network, the focus is on streets in fair condition, ensuring maintenance is done at the optimal time from a cost-benefit perspective. The city expects the overall condition of the roads will gradually improve.

Finally, the city receives $12.8 million from the Growing Communities Fund, a one-time provincial windfall to address infrastructure needs.

It’s unknown how much, if any, will be devoted towards the aging road infrastructure.

So hang onto your hat while the City of Victoria revitalizes the road network during the next few years. Hopefully the current council will mitigate the failed governance priority of the last decade.

Meanwhile, in Saanich, where there are twice the length of roads (560 kilometres), the overall condition has improved in the past decade. More than 67 per cent of all the roads were judged to be in very good or good condition in the 2022 pavement assessment report.

Again, this compares to 23 per cent in Victoria.

Until roads substantially improve, residents must restrain themselves from judging non-performing politicians in a mock trial and dunking them off a bridge.

>>> To comment on this article, write a letter to the editor: [email protected]