The City of Swift Current will postpone street and sidewalk rehabilitation projects due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Councillors approved the contract for the 2020 asphalt and concrete program during a regular council meeting on April 20, which took place via video conference.
The total budget for the asphalt and concrete program was $4.1 million, but due to COVID-19 restrictions and the uncertain nature of the 2020 construction season the City decided to remove $1.5 million from the work plan and to only continue with $2.6 million of rehabilitation work in the revised contract, which was awarded to Mobile Paving Ltd.
“With the onset of the COVID-19 restrictions we had to take another look at our plan for the year,” City General Manager of Infrastructure and Operations Mitch Minken said after the meeting during a video conference media briefing. “Both in terms of when we'll be able to get started in terms of scheduling and also with all the issues around financial aspects, we had to take another good hard look at what we're going to accomplish in 2020.”
They decided to only focus on higher priority items in this year’s asphalt and concrete program and to postpone the lower priority work to next year or to later this year, depending on any change in the pandemic situation.
The lifespan of a paved street is typically 20 to 30 years, and the City provides annual funding to rehabilitate paved streets and sidewalks. He noted that it was therefore not an easy decision to postpone some of the work.
“Our program is designed to be two things,” he said. “To be affordable of course for a city our size, but also to try and keep up with the replacement that we need so that we don't get way behind. So probably the biggest aspect is one of schedule. It's work that we're not going to get done, which just defers off into the future. So that just puts us a bit behind.”
The largest expense in the revised $2.6 million contract is the repaving of 11th Avenue NW from Chaplin Street West to North Service Road West, which will include the reconfiguring of medians and curbing for improved traffic flow at this major intersection with the TransCanada Highway. The total cost of this project will be $1,550,000.
The other projects in the revised contract are paving and sidewalk rehabilitation in various areas of the city ($550,000), downtown sidewalk rehabilitation ($350,000), and paved lanes ($150,000).
The continuation of the 11th Avenue NW project is a priority, because Minken noted the entire stretch of asphalt is in bad shape and the sidewalk concrete has failed. The work along this stretch of street will result in road restrictions and closures.
“There will be restrictions at times and then at times full sections will be closed to allow the contractors to do their work,” he said. “So we'll have detours and work it out as best we can to try and avoid confusion and conflict as best we can through that time and we'll be out there trying to keep the public informed about what we're doing.”
The road construction activities in Swift Current will initially start with another project that already got underway last year and will continue during 2020. It is the reconfiguration of the Central Avenue North and Battleford Trail intersection. This work will probably start in mid-May, depending on weather conditions, and will continue for four to six weeks. The next priority will be to start the 11th Avenue NW project and then activities at the various other project locations will also get underway.
“We'll have multiple crews in there,” he said. “Typically for these projects, when there's concrete involved, concrete curbs and the like, the concrete crew goes in and does all the concrete work first and then a little bit of curing time and then the paving crew comes in after the fact. So there'll be some time when concrete is going on, there'll be some time where there's no activity for a little while, while we wait for the concrete to cure, and then the pavers will be coming. So the pavers will work on other things while the concrete's being done.”
Minken did not expect these contracts will experience any difficulties with a shortage of materials due to the pandemic.
“We know these contracts have everything in place for at this point,” he said. “We can't foresee what might happen with the further COVID restrictions that might impact say concrete availability or even the ability to produce asphalt. So if things continue the way they're looking right now, we should have no issues whatsoever, but if we were to slip back and heavier restrictions come in, then of course we may have some further impacts, but at this time we don't foresee anything related to it.”
The contractor will have to comply with all the public health guidelines for physical distancing to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection.
“They'll have to adjust their work methods accordingly, no different than we as essential workers for the City have had to do,” he said. “We had to make sure that we are able to provide that two-metre distance between people when they're working and these contractors will be in the same position.”
The implementation of these physical distancing measures has been a new and very different way of working for City staff, and he expected it will be the same for the contractor.
“I know it certainly is for us, where workers are used to be in close proximity to one another, helping each other with a task,” he said. “Now they have to accomplish that task by themselves or come up with a new work method to be able to accomplish that by themselves. I'm sure it will be challenging for this group, particularly in the concrete side, because when they're finishing concrete that's usually a task where you've got a bunch of people working in close proximity. So they're going to have to work a little differently.”
Council approves 2020 asphalt maintenance contract:
The 2020 asphalt maintenance contract was also approved during the April 20 regular council meeting. Funding is allocated annually for regular maintenance to extend the lifespan of Swift Current streets.
This work includes patching of potholes, repair of localized roadway failures, and asphalt repairs to street surfaces that were removed due to the need for water, sewer and other utility repairs.
Asphalt maintenance is funded through the City’s general operations and utility budgets. This year’s contract of $400,000 was awarded to Mobile Paving Ltd.
According to Minken the cost of this contract has typically averaged between $350,000 and $400,000 over the past five years. There will be more work required this year and there are more potholes than usual after this winter.
“Some winters are better, some are worse,” he said. “This one is probably a little on the worse side of average, because we had so many freeze-thaws through the winter. With the decreased traffic over the last while, it's held pretty steady. So it's not all that bad.”
The City decided to go into this contract for 2020 to ensure the availability of a maintenance crew for repair work throughout the season.
“That's something we've struggled with in the past is making sure that we had availability,” he said. “Particularly for the end of the season, that we had somebody that could come in and finish all the repair work done by utility work and then make sure that we're in good shape and everything has been patched and all the potholes are taken care of before we go into the winter, which hopefully will help us come out of the winter better.”