Two Decades of Too Little

Stock Photo: Most potholes originate from the freezing and thawing of roads during the winter.

Within the city limits of Sault Ste. Marie, there are roughly 1,200 road sections that must be maintained, with a capital transportation budget of approximately $4.5 million per year.
Surprisingly, this number has remained constant for the past two decades, despite the fact that roads continue to deteriorate due to an underfunded construction budget.

As city staff work to finalize provincially mandated asset management updates of city roads and maintenance requirements, the attention has turned to other northern municipality’s investments.

Capital road spending data was requested from Sudbury, Timmins, Thunder Bay and North Bay in December of 2021. City officials created an in-depth report comparing capital reconstruction and resurfacing expenditures using this data as a standard of current practices and spending throughout the north.

To help frame the data and offer the essential context for comparison, this research included metrics relating to road length, total lane kilometres, surface type, relative lengths of arterials, collectors and local roads.

In a report to Council last evening, Carl Rumiel, Director of Engineering, submitted an in-depth analysis survey with a recommendation to receive for information. Focusing on three main ratios: lane-meters per capita, dollars spent on roads per capita and dollars spent on roads per lane-km, comparing data from one municipality to another is difficult as not all variables are consistent between different locales.

For example, due to soil characteristics, some municipalities may be more successful in obtaining outside grant financing for new road building, or road deterioration may be greater from one geographic region to another.

The varied cost of materials and labour is another element that could produce discrepancies between towns. Because northern communities are geographically isolated, the cost of asphalt in one location may be higher than in another due to trucking of supplies from larger cities. Municipalities located closer to southern Ontario are likely to be able to resurface/reconstruct more lane-kilometres per dollar spent than those located further away.

The report itself carries no immediate financial implications, however there is a direct link from capital spending on roads to the City of Sault Ste. Marie’s corporate strategic plan.

SaultOnline will be following this story closely and providing updates as received.



  1. Let me guess. The report will say that we spend too much money on our roads and that all the money should be spent on a downtown plaza instead!

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