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Condition of roads in Toronto is appalling

It's up to the city of Toronto to undertake permanent restoration,' roads manager Hector Moreno explained. 'In some cases, that could take from two to three years to complete.'

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Many years ago, when I was a kid in Kapuskasing, all the cars and trucks on the road ‘ not all that many, mind you ‘ had to be equipped with heavy-duty shock absorbers.

The reason? The highways were all made of gravel and the streets in town were covered with tar over sand.

The rides, particularly on the highway, were enough to shake your fillings loose.

One year, they rebuilt a bridge on Highway 11 over a creek just outside the village of Moonbeam, east of Kap. Previously, the deck had been made of wood. Now it was concrete.

My father would load everybody into his car on a Sunday afternoon and we would drive the 20 km out there, just so he could drive across that bridge and we would all enjoy five seconds of smoothness.

We also enjoyed the peace and quiet that went along with that smoothness. The noise of driving on gravel was always a symphony of ‘pings’ and ‘BANGS’ as rocks and stones were kicked up by the tires and hit the underside of the car. But not when we were on that bridge.

We got to experience it all twice, of course, because we had to turn around and go home. On the way out, it was all anticipation. On the way back, we?d grit our teeth in preparation for the pounding we?d get, heavy duty shocks or not.

I’m reminded of those days every time I venture out onto the roads in the city of Toronto.

Let’s be honest: they’re awful.

Atrocious, even.

Find me a road anywhere around here that isn’t pock-marked with potholes or uneven squares of pavement that have been cut out to do some sort of repair work on something under the surface.

Then, of course, the person or persons paving the squares over afterward haven?t bothered to smooth out the asphalt properly, which everybody knows is the easiest job in the world.

We’re all victims of the ‘that’s good enough’ attitude that permeates much of modern society.

You know how that works, don’t you?

‘Joe, I need another 10 minutes to make this road smooth.’

‘Ah, that’s good enough. Let?s go.’

And that’s why, when the rest of us drive down that street later, we hear this: Whup! Whup! Whup-whup! Whup!

As part of his special report in today?s Wheels about the poor state of the roads, reporter Henry Stancu talked to the people who do their best to keep things in as good repair as possible.

We all have sympathy, because this is a big city and it’s a big job. But one paragraph in particular leaped out at me:

‘Utilities will do temporary repairs to cuts they make, and then it’s up to the city of Toronto to undertake permanent restoration,’ roads manager Hector Moreno explained. ‘In some cases, that could take from two to three years to complete.’

Two to three years?

If that is the case, restructuring and reorganizing (not to mention refinancing) of the roads department is something that’s needed ‘ urgently.

The streets and roads are as important a part of the transportation system in the city of Toronto as are streetcars and subways and yet I don?t sense there is the same urgency in meeting the challenges facing them.

We’re not alone, of course.

TRIP, a U.S. transportation organization, issued a report in February that said under investment in the infrastructure in New York City had resulted in unsafe roadways, and that 74 per cent of major roads in the city were in poor or mediocre shape.

The report added that roads in disrepair add expense to the maintenance of cars, and the delays they cause cost businesses time and money. A damage-and-time-lost total was in the billions, according to TRIP.

Do we want that for Toronto? If we don?t, we;d better get cracking.

And make sure, in the meantime, that all our cars have heavy-duty shock absorbers.

nmcdonald@thestar.ca

The Toronto Star for Wheels.ca

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