Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Action on road repairs has been put off too long
Over the past few years, some of Victoria's major streets and high-traffic areas have been repaved. These are good changes, but Victoria still has a problem. The city's residential streets need more than $138 million dollars worth of work.
At the April 15 City Council meeting, Mayor Paul Polasek proposed diverting $2 million from sales tax revenues to help pay for the repairs. However, that money would be taken away from capital improvement projects, such as the work on Red River Street.
The estimated cost of the work needed is a staggering amount to the average voter, especially when compared to the city's own budget. The city of Victoria's budget for 2013-14 was about $150 million. If the city has that much cash next year and does nothing else but the necessary residential street repairs, it would only have about $12 million left to run the city.
Of course, that is not a true possibility. However, it does serve as a wake-up call and offers perspective on the sheer scale of the problem. It's fair to say all of these streets didn't fall into disrepair overnight. This is a problem that has been snowballing over the past several years at least - maybe even decades. Now, it has reached the point that it cannot be ignored anymore, but we wonder if taking money away from other projects is the best way to go about fixing this.
This problem built up over a long time. Our community has a history of rolling back taxes to the effective rate when times are good. In many ways, that can be a good thing and is appreciated by the voters, but it also makes it harder to keep up with paying for necessary street and utility repairs and other important construction and maintenance projects. Now, Victoria is faced with an immediate need for action.
This long-term problem is in need of a long-term solution. Diverting $2 million is a drop in the bucket. It's time to take a serious stance and be blunt with the public. The streets that need repairs are located all over our community, whether on the north or south side or historic or more modern areas. All of Victoria needs to be willing to come together in a communitywide effort to address this problem. If the community is willing to make the investment, the city could lay out a plan to tackle the repairs in phases, much like the process used to repave Laurent Street.
These are the streets that many of us live on and must drive to get to and from our homes. Larger streets such as Laurent, Ben Jordan and now Red River have been repaved because of the high level of traffic and a general demand, but residential streets are not any less important just because fewer cars drive down them on a daily basis. But the poor quality of residential streets reflects just as poorly on Victoria to visitors as do the potholes on major thoroughfares. It's time to bite the bullet and make a serious investment in the quality of our residential neighborhoods. We encourage the City Council to examine this need again and create a plan that will address this need in larger pieces with a specific timeline. We cannot afford to continue passing this issue on down the line. It's time to take action. Our community deserves better.
This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.