City ditches road patrol expansion

City council voted Wednesday against expanding Ottawa's road patrol program, which does cyclical reviews of the state of city roads.

John Manconi, director of surface and operations branch, had requested an extra seven employees and just over a million dollars in funding for the road patrol in the 2009 budget.

The city's 2006 auditor general report recommended improving the current program by putting an emphasis on preventative road maintenance. In response, the agriculture and rural affairs and transportation committees recommended the road patrol program be updated to meet provincial standards.

This would mean that checks of high priority roads would occur three times a week, checks of arterial roads would occur two to three times a week and major and minor collector roads and residential roads would start to be included in reviews.

Currently, the only roads which are checked are high priority and arterial roads, which are looked at one to two times per week.

Manconi says that hiring the new employees would have been one of several steps to become a more proactive organization. More attention would have been given to preventing major potholes and other road problems before they start.

"What we heard was a good idea, good program, unfortunately it's an affordability issue vis a vis competing demands," says Manconi in response to council's decision.

Currently the branch receives information about road conditions from its patrol, from the general public and staff from all departments, some of whom call in through the city's 311 telephone number. Councillors emphasized further development of the 311 network and changing current administration processes to improve road maintenance.

Somerset Coun. Diane Holmes, who voted in favour of the expansion, says having a more critical eye passed over city streets would have saved the city money in the long run.

Any fool can spot a pothole," she says.