While I was door knocking during my campaign, I spoke with many residents who were concerned with the shape their back alleys were in, and rightfully so. Many of our back alleys in Edmonton are in need of major resurfacing., so I put forth an inquiry in 2014 for Administration to provide a report on the following:

“From my understanding, there are currently no set metrics or timelines for repairing with potholes in back alleys. Recognizing they are on the bottom of the priority list when compared to Arterial, Collector and Neighbourhood Roads, can Administration provide a report on the following questions:

1) The current process for repairing potholes in back alleys including timelines (if any) to complete the repair?
2) Information currently available on the general condition of back alleys across the city and what percentage of resources we currently use to complete repairs in alleys compared to other road types.
3) Any current plans to address the long-term sustainability of back alleys through neighbourhood renewal?
4) The messaging that we provide to residents (through 311 and the department) about the current repair process.”

In response to that inquiry, Administration first provided a report in 2015 to the Transportation Committee to address the short-term need to provide a more timely repair to back alleys in our city. Until last year, our process for repairing potholes in back alleys was not sufficient. Crews would only go out to do the repairs if they happened to be in the neighbourhood, and I heard from many residents who were waiting years to have potholes filled in their alley. This was not acceptable and I thought that the city should strive to have the repairs done by the end of the repair season in the year the complaint was filed. Administration agreed and our Roadway Maintenance Branch was able to address a majority of those outstanding alley repairs last year.

These repairs were not able to address the larger issue about the overall quality of alleys in our city so the next step was to create a proper plan that would address the long-term improvements desperately needed for back alleys. The response to the long-term fix came today (April 27, 2016) and our Administration outlined the funding options for the creation of a Back Alley Renewal program:

A. City-wide contribution to the alley renewal strategy: In this model, a portion of the current Neighbourhood Renewal Program and/or an additional increase in the Neighbourhood Renewal Program tax levy would be included to cover alley work. If an additional increase in the Neighbourhood Renewal Program is considered, the levy applied to all properties would be approximately 1.17 percent, to start reconstructing 28 kms of alley in 2019. Administration recommends ramping up the program gradually starting in 2019 and increasing its funding and the work performed in 25 percent increments (equivalent to approximately a 0.29 percent tax increase every year from 2019 to 2022) .

B. Residents abutting to alleys contributing to the alley renewal strategy: Here options such as local improvement, residential sub-class, and a special alley renewal tax could be considered (Attachment 3 provides definitions on the previous funding options). If this scenario is contemplated, a specific tax levy for the impacted sub-classes would need to be calculated.

Here is the recommendation from Administration, that advised committee to opt for option A: “That Administration provide a report to Committee that includes a draft Alley Rehabilitation and Renewal Strategy, based on the targets as outlined in the April 27, 2016, City Operations report CR_2279, and a draft Capital Profile to fund the strategy, based on funding option A, as outlined in the April 27, 2016, City Operations report CR_2279. Councillor Caterina then put forth a motion to accept the Administrative recommendation which I fully support for the following reasons:

Similar to Neighbourhood and Arterial Road Renewal programs, back alleys are an integral part of the City’s urban form and providing access to both residents and businesses, an alley renewal program is needed to ensure the City meets its goals for sustainable and accessible infrastructure.

Much like storm water ponds, which are not located within every neighbourhood, the City pays for the creation, renewal and maintenance of these as they are an essential part of our city.
While there are some newer communities that do not have back alleys, we do know that all Edmontonians contribute to the construction of many important pieces of infrastructure that other mature communities have little or none of, yet have a very positive impact on the city as a whole (ex: park space, fire halls, etc.)

Although the final decision to create the full Back Alley Renewal Program still has to be made by all of City Council, the comments from all the members of Council in attendance were quite positive and leads me to believe it is simply a matter of time before officially starting the program, as there was some desire to see if we could start earlier than 2019 or at least address more kms per year if we were to begin then. Those remaining details will be addressed in the report referenced in the motion above. I am looking forward to the final adoption of a plan that is long overdue in our city for what was far too often an overlooked piece of infrastructure.
Here is a link to the agenda and minutes from the Transportation Committee meeting.

Co-authored by Andrew Knack and Kasey Machin

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