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Edmonton councillors told completely closing roads for construction doesn’t help

People often say there are two seasons in Edmonton: winter and construction. Global News

Completely closing a road for construction isn’t as helpful as you’d think. That’s the message city staff gave to Mayor Don Iveson who, prior to the election, brought industry concerns to the table thinking “ripping the Band-Aid off” would be better in the long run.

Not so, the mayor was told during Tuesday’s executive committee meeting. In some cases a complete closure will work, like drivers saw this past summer on 72 Avenue off 109 Street. But in most cases closures only happen in off peak hours, with lanes left open the rest of the time.

“In those instances where completely shutting it down makes sense, it tends to be to do so overnight to finish it,” Iveson said. “They have been doing more of that, and it is reducing disruption and it is saving money.”

READ MORE: Mayor Iveson passes along industry’s idea for better road construction

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Members of executive committee were told that bids for projects do come in with less cost if the contractor knows the equipment can be used over more hours. That was one argument that convinced the mayor the way they’re doing things now will continue.

“There are so many trade-offs with complete road closures with having to reroute buses, and with impacts to the overall network with the loss of access to businesses and to residences, that total closure is going to be seldom the answer.

“Even though it may save some money, it might just be completely impractical for both the overall transportation network and for local access.”

Branch manager Brian Latte said improved signage will help.

“Quite often the default is ‘road construction, expect delays’. That really doesn’t help most people,” Latte said. He promised more details will be posted.

Councillor Bev Esslinger put it to deputy city manager for infrastructure, Adam Laughlin that maybe the city should try to get some feedback instead of just assuming things.

“You don’t want to do night time closures near residences, but have you ever asked them?” she asked. “You might get a different answer than what you’re thinking.”

READ MORE: Extensive trail closures impact Edmonton runners, cyclists

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City councillors also are vowing to have the city go to bat for home owners who’ve had their property damaged by contractors who’ve done work for the city, poorly.

Councillor Mike Nickel recounted instances where road work done by a contractor for the city has damaged the foundation of a home. He was surprised that Latte confirmed that only now is the department working to compile a performance list of contractors.

“I thought that would be kind of a given that if the guy screwed up the first job, and then he screwed up the second job, why are you giving him the third job? That was a bit of a shocker for me.”

Still, the go-to position for the city is to have the home owner take on the contractor because insurance should take care of things, that way the city isn’t financially at risk.

Councillors were also told that improvements with way finding apps and info on the city’s website are also being worked on.