Winnipeg City Council voted on April 25 to allocate the bulk of the $43.9 million it is expecting from the federal gas-tax windfall toward the local streets program which was gutted in the city’s recently approved Operating and Capital budget.
Councillors voted almost unanimously in favour of putting $19.25 million into local street repairs, restoring about half the amount that was cut from that budget line due to a $40-million shortfall in provincial funding. Another $750,000 will be used this year for active transportation projects and $2.25 million for road safety capital investments.
Council also approved using the remainder of the $43.9 million towards roads next year, along with active transportation, “to be determined as part of the 2020 multi-year budget process.”
The gas tax top-up is a one-time doubling of the revenues to flow to all Canadian municipalities. The council stressed its decision is contingent upon the receipt of those funds.
Coun. Vivian Santos, who favoured using the cash allotted to 2020 for libraries, recreation and public transit, voted against the EPC motion.
Councillors said it has been made clear their constituents see road renewal as the city’s priority.
Finance Chair Scott Gillingham told the meeting he preferred using the entire allotment from the federal government to restore the whole local streets renewal program that was cut by $40 million, but supported this EPC motion, calling it prudent and responsible.
“The phone calls I’m getting this spring are road phone calls,” Gillingham noted. “It’s spring time — this is when the potholes emerge and the evidence of the crumbling infrastructure is really present.”
Deputy Mayor Marcus Chambers noted the funding for local roads is not a ‘want’ but a ‘need’ due to the dangerous conditions of some decaying streets.
“It’s not an esthetic issue, it’s actually a safety issue that they (constituents) are concerned with,” Chambers stressed. “It’s at the point now where catch-up is near impossible in terms of all the roads that need to be fixed.”
The MHCA spoke at council in support of the EPC motion, and stressed to councillors they should have no concern about whether the city would get the full value of the $19.25 million. Tenders to date are seeing very competitive bids out of the industry, which is hungry for work.
Further, the MHCA supported in spirit a last-minute motion, also approved by council, calling upon its provincial and federal funding partners to put the unused dollars committed to the Waverley underpass, which has come in under budget, to city infrastructure projects.