When he began campaigning for his successful run for Chatham-Kent Council, the number one complaint Ryan Doyle heard was the poor condition of gravel roads.
The Ward 2 South Kent Councillor brought a successful motion to the Aug. 14 Council meeting for administration to develop a long-term plan for gravel roadways that includes the prioritization of upgrades to surface treatment or pavement for roadways that are key connectors or where the traffic volumes meet the requirements.
The motion also asks that project funding for a gravel roadway conversion program be brought forward for Council consideration through the 2024 multi-year budget process.
“Knowing we haven’t upgraded some of these roads in quite some time, and with more traffic on these roads, I think the long-term plan should be to review these based on a need-to-be basis on traffic and the roadway themselves,” Doyle said.
The first-term Councillor said he wasn’t necessarily looking for more paved roads.
“It would be great to start upgrading some of our gravel roads to chip and tar,” Doyle said.
He said that along with the municipality’s Gravel Road Study, the long-term plan would be beneficial in prioritizing roads for upgrades.
The municipality has 1,785 kilometres of gravel roads and resurfaces approximately 525 km of gravel roads annually at a cost of nearly $4.5 million.
The municipality also spends another approximate $1.4 million each year on dust suppressants.
Ryan Brown, Acting General Manager of Infrastructure and Engineering Services, said when residents have previously asked about converting a gravel road to a surface treatment, such as chip and tar or asphalt, it would fall under the Local Improvement process where residents who live on the road would contribute to the Capital cost.
Brown said the cost of converting a gravel road would be between a half-million to one million dollars per kilometre, depending on whether it will become a surface treatment or asphalt road, the drainage and road base.
Gord Quinton, Chatham-Kent’s Chief Financial Officer, said the last gravel road that was converted to asphalt was a portion of Horton Line from Communication Road to Fargo Road in 2003 to handle the increased traffic to the C.M. Wilson Conservation Area.
At that time, Quinton said the municipality put $250,000 annually from 2000-03 into a gravel road conversion budget that no longer exists.
“The idea at the time, if the budget was there to do so, was to connect Horton Line all the way to Charing Cross Road,” Quinton said.
South Kent Councillor Anthony Ceccacci entered an amendment that Council receives information before the start of any gravel road conversation project, including the impacts on the current road conversion policy, recommendations from the Gravel Roads Study that was approved in the 2023 budget and a long-term Capital and Lifecycle operational and budget impact.
“It’s not just about the projects. It’s about what we’re going to do with our current policies, what we’re going to do with our lifecycle and how much it is going to inflate our operational budgets because we already know in the next several years, we’re going to see significant challenges from a budget standpoint. I don’t want this to get in the way of future lifecycle and capital projects,” Ceccacci said.
South Kent Councillor Trevor Thompson pointed out that converting a three- to four-kilometre stretch of a gravel road “would be three or four million dollars per year to do one section of one gravel road in one ward.”
“We could be looking at 2.0 percent or more budget increase just to handle this idea … and that concerns me,” said Thompson.
Chatham Ward 6 Councillor Alysson Storey, who lives in Rondeau during the summer months, said she was concerned this idea could be a duplication of services since staff is already working on the gravel road situation.
Doyle’s motion passed 11-4 as Brock McGregor, Amy Finn, Thompson, and Storey voted against.
By Michael Bennett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Sep 11, 2023 at 13:07