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Making CAA’s worst roads list not a great feeling, city manager says

Municipal officials don’t like having two streets on CAA Saskatchewan’s top 10 worst roads list, but they say they can’t do much about those thoroughfares because of circumstances beyond their control.
thunderbird viaduct sunrise
Thunderbird Viaduct (Scott Hellings photo)

Municipal officials don’t like having two streets on CAA Saskatchewan’s top 10 worst roads list, but they say they can’t do much about those thoroughfares because of circumstances beyond their control.

The Fourth Avenue (Thunderbird Viaduct) Bridge and Ninth Avenue Southwest had the dubious distinction of making the worst roads list during this year’s campaign. The former placed seventh and the latter placed tenth. 

The media asked city manager Jim Puffalt about those roads during a scrum after the recent city council meeting.

“As you know, we don’t want to be on that list. It’s not the best list in the world,” he said.

The City of Moose Jaw has worked hard to maintain streets and infrastructure, including replacing 20 kilometres of cast iron pipes and related roads during the past six years, he continued. The problem with these two streets is the municipality can’t put heavy equipment on them, so it does what it can with them.

City hall is working to maintain the viaduct while also planning to replace it, but that’s not much else that can be done, Puffalt continued. He pointed to the installation of a catcher beam earlier this year as one example of a temporary structural enhancement.

Meanwhile, Puffalt said that the Ministry of Highways is responsible for Ninth Avenue Southwest — the section leading out of the city — via its Urban Highway Connector Program. He explained that through the program, the ministry was supposed to return the road to the municipality in a new or refurbished condition — which didn’t happen.

“As you know, there’s a number of issues with that area and so we’ve worked really closely with the (Ministry) of Highways to look to fix that road,” he said. 

The section of Ninth Avenue Southwest that rides like a “rollercoaster” is experiencing slumping in the roadbed, which prompted questions about whether there was a leaking water main, he continued. However, municipal officials determined that wasn’t the case and sent the issue back to the ministry.

“We think we’ll have that one resolved fairly quickly … ,” Puffalt added.

The new design for the Fourth Avenue Bridge is 90-per-cent complete, so city hall is looking for funding opportunities since the project will cost at least $20 million, he said. These opportunities include cost-sharing with the federal and provincial governments or acquiring funding grants “to make that project a little more affordable for us.”

Despite being on the worst roads list, there is no extra urgency within city hall to work faster on the two road projects since officials have been aware of their condition for a while, Puffalt continued. The city has been working on those streets “for a very long time trying to get them resolved, so it was not a surprise they were on the list.”

“We’d be the first ones to say, ‘Oh my!’ And I think I’ve actually been recorded as calling one a rollercoaster, so that one (Ninth Avenue Northwest) is a rollercoaster … ,” he added. “I’ve often said our best method of pothole control and maintenance is to replace them (cast iron pipes and related streets) when we need to.

“So, we’re working really hard to get there. And those two projects, we’ll get them done as soon as we can.” 

The next regular council meeting is Tuesday, May 24.