Long, cold winter impacting roads

Roads throughout the province took a beating at the hand of Mother Nature this winter and Coaldale was no exception.

Andrew Saje, Director of Engineering and Operations, said the Town has completed an inventory of all the problem areas around Coaldale and are facing roughly a 20 per cent increase in damaged street and alley surfaces.

“Speaking with my colleagues around Alberta, everyone is in the same position,” said Saje.

Dave Harker, Vice President of McNally Contractors Ltd., said this is an unusual year for road damage across the region. His company works with a number of communities in southern Alberta including Coaldale.

He said the long-lasting cold temperatures and the lack of ground cover over the winter drove frost deeper into the ground than is traditional the case. This coupled with a wet spring has delayed road projects by a month.

The frost also came out of the ground so fast it created problems with increased soft spots and frost boils.

“It’s not something unique to Coaldale.”

He said for the first time the City of Lethbridge has gone to contractors to help address the numerous problem areas throughout the city.

With such a wide spread problem with roads conditions, Saje hopes the province will recognize the need for additional infrastructure funding to assist municipalities with their long list of road repairs.

Damaged roads in Coaldale have been assigned one of three designations from light damage that can be repaired with cold mix to complete reconstruction at the other end of the scale.

The actual repair work will be based on a priority schedule, taking into account the moisture content in the road that impacts when and how a road can be repaired.

“We can’t grade alleys when they’re wet.”

Saje said the Town has created a map with all of the roads designated for repair work so the projects can be prioritized for consideration under next year’s budget.

A “Request For Proposals” has been submitted for road repairs slated under this year’s budget, and Saje noting one of the categories the Town is looking into is innovative ways of addressing road repairs. The Town is looking for options for stretching the funds allocated for road repairs in order to cover more ground.

When it comes to road work, Harker said one of the challenges unique to Coaldale is its high-plasticity clay soil which means it is more prone to movement and retains more moisture than sandier soils.

The challenge with this type of soil is the increased cost of addressing the moisture content when a road is opened up for repair. Harker said the longer the Town can wait to open up a road in the spring the more cost effective the repair will be.

He noted it takes more time and more money to strengthen the base so it can hold up the road when the soil conditions are such as they are in Coaldale and the moisture content is as high as it is this year.

Harker said if Coaldale residents can be patient and allow for enough time for natural drainage to take care of some of the moisture issues it will help reduce repair time and costs for the Town.

“It is more expensive to fix it right now than three weeks or a month from now.”

He encourages residents to observe caution signs and avoid driving on areas that are in bad condition. He also added the current road conditions are not something municipalities could have prepared for or prevented.

“It’s just Mother Nature.”