Winnipeg’s Public Works Department has prepared an update of the funding model contemplated to address the investment deficit for city streets and will present that report to a City committee as early as April, Public Works Director Jim Berezowsky says.
Berezowsky made the comments at the March 8 meeting of the Infrastructure Renewal and Public Works Committee of City Council. In a discussion regarding the ability to fund accelerated pedestrian lights at crosswalks, he was asked by Coun. Markus Chambers about the impact on the current status of the City’s infrastructure investment deficit.
Berezowsky said funding new categories of infrastructure projects – such as bridges, active transportation, trees and now pedestrian crossing signals – out of the local and regional street renewal reserves does present a lot of considerations and questions.
He noted that the department update to the funding distribution model for local and regional street renewal reserves will be key to the overall funding puzzle.
“Our model has to be updated,” Berezowsky noted. “Since that (street renewal reserve) was created in 2013 and 2014, the model hasn’t been fully evaluated, especially since the incorporation of bridges.
In 2019, City Council voted to make bridge renewal eligible for drawing revenues from the street renewal reserve, which was established in 2013 and ’14 when the 2% annual tax was implemented, dedicated expressly for street renewal. Changing the eligibility criteria required 2/3rds support of council.
The tax and reserve were established to resolve the street renewal investment deficit – the funding required in the next decade to bring to good condition existing streets and build new streets — which now stands at approximately $1.9 billion. The bridges deficit is $1.13 billion.
Councillors have increasingly called upon the administration to use the street renewal reserve for other funding priorities, including for active transportation facilities.
“We need to update that report and come back so you as a Council, starting at IRPW, have the opportunity to see, understand and make recommendation to how that funding should be approved for the future,” Berezowsky said.
MHCA President Chris Lorenc said the local and regional street renewal reserve was never contemplated, at its inception, to be the solution to all the City’s infrastructure investment needs. Lorenc said, in particular, the inclusion of bridges to be funded from the reserve is a real concern, given the scale of the investment required.
“We’ve always said to City Council an updated funding model is needed – we need to know where we sit now regarding the City’s revenue capacity to resolve the investment deficit for streets,” he said. “Further, we can’t use the street renewal reserve as a convenient funding pot whenever Council identifies another priority in infrastructure. Street renewal, bridges, cycling, walking – all of these are important investment priorities and, as such, require individual needs assessments and funding plans.”
At the same IRPW Committee meeting, Chair Matt Allard won unanimous support for accelerating the installation of low-mounted flashing crossing lights at signalled crosswalks. Low-mounted flashing lights are more prominent to motorists and therefore considered to increase safety for pedestrians.
Allard’s motion suggested possible funding sources included the annual local and regional street budget, mill rate stabilization reserve or any other source identified by Executive Policy Committee, where the motion now proceeds for support.