On Vancouver’s Streets

Written by Brian Revel on December 3rd, 2009

BC Hydro's Vandalism at Richards & Dunsmuir

BC Hydro's Vandalism at Richards & Dunsmuir

In my line of work, I come across a lot of road-works. Truthfully, they are the bane of my existence at work. The extensive road closures and worse, the delays in traffic that are associated with them cause so much aggravation to so many people.

Although road-works are road-works no matter where you are in this world, I have a few opinions regarding how Vancouver manages it’s public works and I am more than happy to share those in the future.

But today, I’d like to speak about the other organizations that dig into our city streets, do their thing, and then fill in the holes.

I’m speaking of the likes of BC Hydro, Terasen Gas, and Telus, and the Metro Vancouver Water District to name just four but I’m sure there are more, given all the other utility-like works that go on.

Why is it that when they finish their work, their road patch is of such poor quality? More to the point, why does the city allow them to do such a bad patch-job?

As I see it, taxpayers paid a lot of money to have the road built and maintained by the city. Too much, even. But then along comes some utility who digs it up, roots around in the hole they made, fills it in, pats a little asphalt down over the top and calls it a day. When they’re done, the finished road surface looks (and feels) like a pothole in reverse! There is not the slightest attempt to smooth the patch out. No matter the utility, the location, or the time of year!

Never mind that there are concrete curbs, concrete sidewalks, and concrete bus-stop pads and areas of brick and cobblestones. It seems that a bad paving-job is good enough for these utilities- as well as the city- which is responsible for the roads in the first place.

In the middle of a concrete curb, the replacement asphalt is ‘moulded’ to resemble the curb. In the middle of ornate brickwork, you’ll find a mounded slab of asphalt. And in the middle of the smoothest pavement in the middle of the street, you’ll find a whacking huge lump that passes for a ‘patch’.

When these guys are finished with our roads, their handy work is so shoddy, so haphazard, it’s plain that they don’t care about the road surface at all. The work is so bad, it’s sure to cause motorists to fear for the well-being of their cars’ suspension systems. Pedestrians must navigate serious tripping hazards. It’s so cheap. And it’s so unnecessary.

When the city digs into a street to fix a sewer pipe, once they’re done, they replace the street’s foundation, tamp it down, put down an underlay of asphalt, and then do a final paving so that the patch blends exactly in with the road surface around it. They pay similar attention to concrete and bricklaying. They may be slow but city’s Street Operations folk do excellent work.

I certain that if a lamp-post is destroyed in a car accident, ICBC pays for it’s replacement. So why is it any different when there’s pre-meditated vandalism on our road surfaces?

This is one way to improve the condition of our streets over time that won’t cost the taxpayer a single dime. Whoever digs the street up, can do what’s necessary to repair the damage; to put it back to the condition it was in before they started their digging.

Our streets have value. It’s time for them to be protected. It’s time for Vancouver to establish and enforce standards on these digger-happy agencies. How the city itself repairs its streets, should be the standard.


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