Paving the Way for Better Roads

Annual Worst Roads campaign kicks off

Source: Paul Forsyth, Niagara This Week
March 27, 2012

The traffic light turns green, and you accelerate away, careful not to go over the speed limit. You approach the next set of lights and it turns red, stopping you in your tracks.

That pattern is repeated as you inch along the roadway, fuming as you watch your gas gauge dropping down because of all the stopping and starting.

In the past, there wasn’t much you could do about lights that aren’t properly synchronized for motorists obeying the speed limit, other than to hurl expletives at them. Now, though, you can get your revenge.

Paving the Way for Better RoadsThe Canadian Automobile Association has launched its ninth annual Worst Roads Campaign, but this time around it won’t just be those tooth-jarring potholes that will be targeted. Rick Mauro, vice-president of marketing for CAA Niagara, said this year’s campaign has been expanded to include poorly timed lights, congestion, poor road signs or markings, and pedestrian and cycling safety issues in addition to potholes and crumbling pavement.

Through the website, pedestrians, cyclists and motorists can type in a specific road and choose which problem there is from a pull-down menu. The website includes satellite images of Niagara roads.

Mauro said the unusually mild winter we just had means there are fewer potholes than usual at a time of the year when roads are usually in their worst shape. But he said that’s a good opportunity to focus on the other issues such as lights, signs and safety issues.

“There are plenty of road issues to choose from,” Mauro said at the launch of the Worst Roads campaign at the Region’s road maintenance yard in Thorold on Tuesday, where crews store the trucks, cold patch asphalt and equipment used to fix beat-up roads.

Despite fewer potholes this year, Mauro said there are more than enough still out there. He said CAA is calling on municipalities and the province to look at long-term plans to ensure there is sustainable funding for roads. Suffering a broken strut or shock absorber by striking a pothole can cost upwards of $300 for a typical mid-size car — something a lot of families simply can’t afford, he said.

Mauro said adding the HST tax to gasoline is pulling about $1.8 billion a year in to government coffers. CAA wants that money to go toward roads infrastructure, he said.

“If drivers are paying for that we’d like to see it go back to something that helps drivers,” he said.

The Worst Roads campaign has made governments sit up and take notice, said Mauro: since it was launched, nearly 90 per cent of roads identified by voters as among the worst have been repaired or are scheduled to be repaired. He noted the top three worst roads identified in Niagara in 2010 — McLeod Road in Niagara Falls, and Fourth Avenue and Welland Avenue in St. Catharines — have been fixed. Because of the success of the campaign in Ontario, CAA has now expanded the Worst Roads campaign to seven more provinces.

John Blake, general manager of Norjohn Contracting and a member of the Ontario Road Builders’ Association, said the Good Roads campaign is an important tool residents can use to ensure their roads don’t fall into disrepair.

“We think it’s a good opportunity for local residents to be able to voice their opinions on the conditions of roads, and to make sure governments continue with long-term funding for roads,” he said.

The campaign runs until April 24.