Windsor Research Project: Local Improvement

On July 8th, City Council was presented a report on the state of residential “rural” roads in our City (Council discussion is here starting at 20:54 in the agenda tab) and local improvement initiatives that could bring these roads up to standard. With approximately 77km of roadways that are “sub-standard” and estimate of $400 million to get them up to “standard”, a better understanding how this infrastructure ties into the broader infrastructure deficit and asset management plan is important.

I spent a few hours on the long weekend transposing the tables (starting on pg 17 of the report) from the PDF to excel so it could be sorted and analyzed. That file can be downloaded below.

The data looks at three types of roads: roads without sanitary sewers; roads with rural cross sections which to my understanding are those roads without sidewalks, curbs etc.; and local flankage roads with rural cross sections in Appendix D which are excluded, by my reading, from the program but are covered under CR8/2012.

You can find the scoring criteria below.

Pg. 21 from Council report

Where are these Roads

One of the challenges with this report is visualizing where these roads are and how bad they score in the context of the report each other. Solution, I have mapped them, the ward boundaries are in blue with sections of road and their corresponding colour based on their scoring shown.

Map 1 shows the roads identified needing some sort of sanitary sewers

Map 1 – Open in new window to enlarge

There are only a handful of roads without sanitary sewers, largely in Ward 1, along Malden road; a lone section in Ward 6; two roads in Ward 9 out in the Sandwich South lands; and several roads in Ward 10 including around the South Cameron Woodlot. You will note that none of it scores a high priority (greater than 3+) but due to health concerns related to septic systems additional prioritization does make sense.

Map 2 illustrates roads with rural cross sections.

Map 2 – Open in new window to enlarge

Far more wide spread are roads with some form of rural cross sections. Present in every Ward, Ward 10 is home to what appears to the be the greatest concentration these rural system roads in the heart of the city.

Finally map 3 shows the flanking roads

Map 3 open in new window to enlarge

It isn’t entirely clear to me why they are not included in the program, I wasn’t able to track down the report that would cover them online. That being said, every ward is home to some of these streets, with Wards 5, 6 and 8 seemingly home to the concentration of these roads.

Impacts

These local improvements will have residents paying directly for a portion of the cost for their implementation. Although there the $300+ million price tag to complete all of these section (approximately $4,500 per metre). Those totals do not include the cost sharing agreements that residents typically pay under the local improvement structure.

Generally speaking if sidewalks, streetlights or storm sewers are installed, residents pay up to 50% of the cost, which is part of the reason why these sections of the city don’t have these basic infrastructure services. In theory that is great, but not every neighbourhood/street is created equally. If we were to overlay low income rates over the road network where sanitary and rural cross sections exist we find the following:

Map 4 Click to Enlarge (does not include the Flanking Road Cross Sections)

Not every neighbourhood is equal – low income areas are also a highly correlated proxy for rental housing, less engaged residents, greater housing turnover and transiency etc. which create barriers to not only cover the monetary contribution to these local improvements but to get complete the petitions that have traditionally triggered this development.

One of these streets with a rural cross section is a block from my house, with no sidewalks, I jog down the middle of the road almost every other day early in the morning. A number of homes are owned by landlords who rent to students, what if they don’t want to pay for these improvements? Will this street never see a sidewalk because of that?

Conclusions

These rural cross sections are apart of our infrastructure deficit and $330 million is nothing to sneeze at. That being said there is a level of infrastructure equity that should be discussed.

Should certain neighbourhood based on their socio-economic structure be denied certain infrastructure because they can’t pay for half of it? By building sidewalks and replacing ditches with storm sewers, property taxes will go up as homes get assessed at a higher values which will generate additional revenue that will help cover costs. I have no idea what the repayment time would be but it is a potential offset to upfront costs of some of these projects.

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