Manitoba announces $15 million for communities to help patch potholes
The Manitoba government is sinking $15 million into a one-time grant program aimed at fixing the province’s pothole-addled roads made worse by months of extreme weather.
Premier Heather Stefanson made the announcement Monday at the Manitoba Public Insurance damage centre on Plessis Road.
Stefanson noted she was a few minutes late to the announcement for a very fitting reason.
“You can’t make this up. We actually hit a pothole this morning and I spilled my coffee down me, but it’s all good. That’s the reason why it’s so important to all of us,” she said.
The province will distribute the money to Manitoba’s 137 municipalities on a per-capita basis, with the City of Winnipeg set to receive $8.9 million.
Stefanson said while the money won’t go towards long-term road solutions, it will help get more potholes filled this summer.
“This is a shorter term solution to get goods moving in the communities, to make sure that people can get to where they need to be in a timely fashion,” she said.
With a forecasted shortfall of over $56 million in the City of Winnipeg’s budget as result of pandemic-related impacts, Mayor Brian Bowman said the funding is welcome news.
It will add to the city’s projected $164.7 million tab for the upcoming road construction season, which is record road spending for the city.
“While we have had a season like no other for potholes, it’s also going to be a season like no other for construction, so it’s going to be very, very busy,” Bowman said, noting city crews have already filled over 46,000 potholes this season.
Municipalities will be given the money to pay for road infrastructure improvements, including repair materials and addressing workforce shortages.
The grant is equivalent to a five per cent increase to comprehensive operating and infrastructure funding support that municipalities receive annually through the province’s basket funding model.
Association of Manitoba Municipalities president Kam Blight said he has called for long-term, predictable funding from the province for years, and the new funding is a step in the right direction.
“We know that local councils know their communities best and what their priorities are. Allowing municipalities the flexibility to support road improvements and mitigate further infrastructure damage is timelier than ever,” he said.
Manitoba Public Insurance president and CEO Eric Herbelin said the Crown corporation typically sees about 60 pothole claims across the province in March and April. This year, it had over 300 claims for that same period.
“Way more than usual, most of that located in Winnipeg,” he said.
The province notes the funding is in addition to any disaster assistance municipalities could receive due to excessive flooding.
The money is part of the province’s previously announced $1.5 billion to enhance the safety and connectivity of Manitoba’s highway network.