News

Norwich Township road needs study shows major under funding

By Jennifer Vandermeer, Norwich Gazette/IngersollTimes

NORWICH TOWNSHIP - 

Norwich Township needs to basically double the amount of money spent on roads if it is to keep the existing infrastructure in its current condition.

This was one of the findings from the recently completed road needs study presented to township council Tuesday, Nov. 10 by engineer Phil Whelan of McIntosh Perry Consulting Engineers.

“Generally speaking, there is a shortfall in spending,” Whelan told council.

The study finds that on average, it is estimated the township would have to spend about $1.954 million per year for roads in order to maintain the current level of service at the current condition ratings, which is above current spending limits provided by the township. This funding level represents a shortfall of $970,000 per year for the proposed work in the 10-year plan the engineering firm submitted to council as a way to bring its roads system up to a standard that can then be regularly maintained.

“This is evidence that the township's roads are severely underfunded, particularly as the current level of service does not yet meet the preferred level of service,” it is stated in the report.

Whelan explained the background of how the study was completed, and how the township's roads fare in relation to generally accepted standards as he presented a summary of the report.

Loose top roads, or gravel, are rated well, with 62 per cent of the township's 151 kilometres of gravel roads rated good. Another 30 per cent of gravel roads were rated fair, and six per cent rated poor.

“I think the system is well in hand right now for gravel roads,” said Whelan.

Asphalt roads in the urban areas are rated fairly evenly across the rating system of very poor, poor, fair, good and excellent, which Whelan said is a good distribution as far as maintenance is concerned. The even distribution means a reasonable amount of maintenance can be completed each year, rather than having a large percentage of asphalt roads requiring major work in any given year.

Asphalt roads in the rural areas were also rated fairly well, but it is the township's surface treated roads – also known as tar and chip – that the township needs to look at, said Whelan.

“There will have to be some focus on the surface treated roads,” he said.

Of the roughly 77 kilometres of surface treated roads in the township, 82 per cent rated as poor, with such things as broken edges being counted among deficiencies. About 16 per cent of the surface treated kilometres are considered to be in fair condition, with one per cent in very poor, and none in either good or excellent condition.

Even so, Whelan said this type of road is most expensive to replace, so financially, it makes more sense to let them go as long as possible without replacement – even though he admitted that can be a “tough sell to the public.”

The road needs study was commissioned by council in order to get an unbiased look at what the roads conditions are, and where it should be focusing the spending during budget deliberations.

Though councillors had few questions, Mayor Larry Martin asked how many studies the company has done in the last five years and how the township compares to other municipalities. Whelan said of the six or seven similar road needs studies done, Norwich Township rates a little above average.