Rock to Road

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One More Load: The long game

Importance of long-term infrastructure investment


September 21, 2016
By Geoff Wilkinson

September 28, 2016 – The future certainly looks bright for road building in Ontario.

With promises of long-term infrastructure funding pledged by both the federal and provincial governments, our industry has the opportunity to flourish.

The Ontario Road Builders’ Association, along with many other industry associations, have been actively engaged in advocating for sustainable, long-term, predictable funding for many years.

This kind of investment is vital from an economic perspective for Ontario in terms of the amount of jobs that our industry supports, as well as the economic impacts of moving people and products in a timely manner.

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As anyone living or commuting in the Greater Golden Horseshoe can attest to, we’re somewhat stifled by congestion – especially in the Greater Toronto Area.

Recent studies have shown that the traffic congestion in the Greater Golden Horseshoe costs Ontario’s economy upwards of $11 billion a year in lost productivity.

Long-term commitments of government funding for infrastructure can also play a key role in ensuring our industry is operating as efficiently as possible. With a 10-year funding commitment in place, industry members are able to create better long-term plans for managing their capital and labour requirements – the latter being something that will only continue to challenge the construction sector as waves of experienced skilled workers retire at a rate not yet being filled by younger generations.

Don’t get me wrong, our industry will adapt to whatever environment it finds itself in; we just adapt a lot better when we are given the opportunity to create long-term plans.

And we, as an industry, are not alone in the need for long-term sustainable funding and planning.

Another recent report, Informing the Future: The Canadian Infrastructure Report Card, points to an urgent need for strategic infrastructure investment for municipalities.

The 2016 report card found that almost 60 per cent of Canada’s core public infrastructure including bridges, roads, transit lines and water infrastructure is owned and maintained by municipal governments; and of that, one-third of the infrastructure is in fair, poor or very poor condition.

In Ontario, the government has made some strides in regards to asset management programs, and that’s the first step in the right direction. The next step is continuing to improve the amount of funding municipalities have available for civil projects.

We also have to strike a balance between funding for our roads, bridges and highways with public transportation – to ensure there is a focus on traditional civil projects not solely at the expense of public transportation.

Public awareness is another key factor for aiding municipalities in gaining the support they need to get the funding required to keep their infrastructure running effectively.

One of the things our association does to keep public awareness levels high for road building is working with CAA’s Canada’s Worst Roads campaign. ORBA provides the technical analysis for the campaign. After the campaign is complete, we also use that data to speak with municipalities about the importance of maintaining their roads. There are some municipalities that look forward to the CAA’s campaign, and seeing roads in their municipality at the top of that list.

Municipal officials have stated that by having the poor roads in their area highlighted, it has helped them move those roads to top of their capital plans.

ORBA has been working on the Canada’s Worst Roads campaign for its entire 12-year run. The program is an excellent opportunity to showcase how maintenance is key to having healthy roads and that the longer we leave any problems, the bigger those problems can become. Neglected poor road conditions can deteriorate very quickly and end up requiring full construction as opposed to minor rehabilitation. And that kind of spending won’t leave municipalities much left in their coffers to reap the benefits of long-term infrastructure planning.

To check out the results from the 2016 CAA Worst Roads Campaign, visit www.caaworstroads.com.