It’s a case of the tail wagging the dog in Winnipeg where the contractors call the shots and not the citizens or their elected representatives. It’s time to change this!
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Here we are – it’s summer again and our town is a leafy green paradise, unless, that is, you happen to be driving down Portage Avenue, Ness Avenue, Corydon Avenue, McGillivray Boulevard and countless other streets that are being ripped up right now for repairs.
Now don’t get me wrong: I applaud the energy going into fixing our streets and repairing our curbs and (hopefully) our boulevards. But why can’t we make this happen faster?
I put this question to a former city councillor, who patiently explained that working at night caused the phones to ring off the hook with complaints about the noise – and no doubt that’s true, but surely not on regional streets where all the businesses are closed? Why can’t these critical thoroughfares be put on a special speedup schedule where contractors would work three shifts to get the job done?
Another excuse I have heard is that it’s dark and that this is a safety issue. Nonsense. We can light things up so that they are as bright as daylight. We are the electricity capital of Canada, aren’t we?
One other excuse (incomprehensible to me) is that the local contractors have just so much machinery and people and that they are doing all they can. What? This excuse reminds me of a comment from a visitor from Soviet Russia back in the day. He expressed amazement over the rapidity with which a local building was going up. “It’s not like in Russia,” he said, “where you get paid as much for laying down as you do for standing up, so nothing ever gets finished!”
I guess here you get paid the same for working during the day as you would for losing sleep so why work at night? (I seem to remember, though, that there was an hourly premium attached to night shifts in most industries.)
This past February, the city of Toronto voted to allow around the clock construction on some major thoroughfares, and work on “major roads” can be carried on between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. Local roads have a 14-hour window from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. You can work around the clock in many other Canadian and American cities.
Every day that the streets are tied up means loss of business for local merchants, not to mention hours of lost time for other businesses whose employees are out on the roads on legitimate appointments. It also means extreme inconvenience for all drivers.
The city of Winnipeg used to work shifts when the work was actually done by our own employees. So, why can’t contractors be given this as a condition of contract? I think it’s time we overrode these self-serving objections and changed the current policy.
Yet it seems that here in our town the heavy construction industry calls the shots – they do not particularly want to work nights and are the originators of all the excuses. Chris Lorenc, executive director for the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association, was quoted in the Winnipeg Free Press as saying, “It’s just silliness to think we can work 24/7.” He was talking about noise complaints, but in fact, the city removes snow around the clock and residents seem to understand.
Well, the citizens of this city disagree with you, Chris. It is not “silliness” to want to get from point A to point B in a timely fashion. It is not “silliness” to expect that our tax dollars should be spent in a way that provides the most convenience to us. It is not “silliness” to expect that city council is calling the shots and not the contractors we pay to do the work for us.
I have a lot of faith in our new mayor and city council, and I know they have their hands full trying to set the city back on its feet. Road construction and the arrogance of the heavy construction association is just one more example of a problem they need to tackle.