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Barrhaven gets cracking on its crumbling, weedy sidewalks

Barrhaven East Coun. Wilson Lo inspects a cracked sidewalk in his ward. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC - image credit)
Barrhaven East Coun. Wilson Lo inspects a cracked sidewalk in his ward. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC - image credit)

The City of Ottawa is looking to step up its sidewalk game and Barrhaven is about to become ground zero.

The southern suburb's sidewalks are beginning to show their age. Many are now veined with deep cracks and gaps where weeds have pushed through, and can be rough going for strollers and wheelchairs.

According to the area's city councillor, stop-gap measures such as filling the cracks with gravel haven't really worked.

"Gravel only holds back weeds for so long, 10, 15 years usually," Wilson Lo observed. "Where there's a gap, nature will always find a way and push through."

Lo said he often hears from residents about the problem and routinely passes their complaints along to the city's surface operations department via 311.

He's become such a frequent caller, in fact, that his ward has now been chosen for a new pilot project aimed at identifying and repairing the cracks in a more proactive and systematic way.

Deep cracks like this, often with weeds sprouting through the pavement, are becoming an increasingly common site in Barrhaven, according to the area's city councillor.
Deep cracks like this, often with weeds sprouting through the pavement, are becoming an increasingly common site in Barrhaven, according to the area's city councillor.

Deep cracks like this, often with weeds sprouting through the pavement, are becoming increasingly common in Barrhaven, according to the area's city councillor. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

CleanCreteCutting Ltd. based in Newton, Ont., near Kitchener-Waterloo, has been hired for the job.

Over the next couple of weeks, residents may spot the company's inspection vehicle — essentially, a GPS-enabled golf cart — cruising the neighbourhood's sidewalk network as it takes stock of every imperfection along the way.

The inspectors will then map out the problem areas using specialized software and city crews will follow up with repairs.

"This way we can pinpoint exactly what defects are where, and also get a really full picture of the sidewalk situation without having to send crews out on foot," Lo said, noting this new and improved inspection method will make it easier for the city to comply with a provincial requirement that sidewalks be checked at least every 16 months.

CleanCreteCutting Ltd., the company hired for the pilot project, uses special software to assess and map sidewalk conditions.
CleanCreteCutting Ltd., the company hired for the pilot project, uses special software to assess and map sidewalk conditions.

CleanCreteCutting Ltd., the company hired for the pilot project, uses special software to assess and map sidewalk conditions. (CleanCreteCutting Ltd.)

Lo, who was elected to represent Barrhaven East last fall, said he was also surprised to learn the city has no dedicated program to trim weeds and "shrubby curbs," relying instead on roving grass-cutting crews to spot problem areas.

Failing that, it's up to residents to report them.

With more than 2,500 kilometres of sidewalk criss-crossing the city, Lo said that was not a very efficient method.

A progress report is expected next week. If the results are positive the sidewalk inspection program could soon spread.

"I'm glad to see it done somewhere, because my ward is not the only ward like this," Lo said.