City auditor gives Hamilton 5 tips on how to improve road repairs


Published August 11, 2022 at 1:50 pm

Just weeks after Hamilton was voted to have the worst road in Ontario, and amid an inquiry into a buried safety report about an expressway, the city has been told how to do its homework when it comes to roadwork.

Thursday, the Office of the City Auditor released the findings of a roads quality assurance supplementary audit. The audit, led by City of Hamilton auditor general Charles Brown, was ordered a year ago, within a three-year work plan for the in-house watchdog. It followed the completion of a VFM (value for money) audit that was released 13 months ago, in July 2021.

That VFM audit was rather scathing. It said the city “lacks a mature process” for gauging where there are infrastructure deficits. It also found that pavement condition surveys were inconsistent; that preservation management was neglected; and that the city was not taking private contractors to task for subpar work. Overall, it councluded that while the city might be pennywise, it was costing taxpayers in the long term with inadequate planning.

Now, the auditor is making some recommendations it says will help improve economy, efficiency and effectiveness. They are, as written.

  1. “That consideration be given to increasing the inspection levels by designing and adopting a risk-based approach for weight validation processes or the use of all-inclusive lump sums and square meter payments.”
  2. “That the resources, training and oversight in place be evaluated to ensure that weight validation, inspection and payment processes are adequately resourced to ensure compliance to the process.”
  3. That the quality and comprehensiveness of construction project documentation is improved (including recordkeeping in the Inspectors’ Daily Diaries) by implementing relevant guidelines and/or standard operating procedures.
  4. That quality assurance guidelines and standard operating procedures, including plant inspections and Petrographic Testing for premium asphalt aggregates, be risk-based and be formally documented and adhered to.
  5. That consideration be given to expanding the quality assurance function during peak construction periods of the year in order adequately manage the risks associated with the construction activities.

Hamilton’s roads program governs almost 6,500 km worth of streets. The replacement cost of it, according to the city, is $5.2 billion. That is roughly twice the size of an infrastructure deficit that the city faces, which will be challenged further by climate catastrophe in the coming decades.

“This supplementary audit further illustrates what the initial roads audit highlighted last year — in the current financially constrained environment, getting good value from the investment in road assets is vital to ensuring fiscal prudence,” Brown stated. “I am confident that in bringing forward these recommendations, there is a tangible opportunity to strengthen controls and enhance the value for money achieved in the City of Hamilton’s Roads Program.”

With respect to the Red Hill Valley Parkway, presently the subject of a judicial inquiry, the new report looks only at details about the work and practices related to a resurfacing project. The first phase of the RHVP Inquiry will carry into 2023, and by that point the cost is expected to be in the $26M-$28M range.

“Information related to the management or reporting of skid resistance or friction is part of the Red Hill Valley Parkway Judicial Inquiry and beyond the scope of this audit,” the city said.

In June, Barton Street East was voted the worst road in the province by drivers, cyclists, transit users and pedestrians who participated in a Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) annual survey. It finished third in 2021.

At the same time, it was the only Hamilton street in the top 10. Toronto had four streets on the list, Ottawa and Prince Edward County each had two, and Kingston had one.

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