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Rain, Calgary budget cuts behind deluge of back alley complaints

The City of Calgary Roads Department is dealing with more than 3,000 service requests for back alley gravel roads across the city. 

Chris McGeachy, a spokesperson for Roads with the City of Calgary, said rain and budget cuts are to blame for the high number.

“There were some adjustments in the budget. Couple that with the rainfall we’ve seen throughout the summer and it has had an impact on our schedule,” McGeachy said.

“So right now we’re basically trying to work our way through the schedule and respond to the highest priority SRs (service requests) that are coming in.”

City maintains 1,200 kms of alleys each year

In the past, the City would typically run down back gravel roads with a grader in order to maintain them. But due to budget impacts from July, McGeachy said they have to be picky with their road selection in order to stay “budget conscious.”

According to the City’s website, around 1,200 km of gravel and paved back roads are maintained every year. The City inspects the entire back road network, grades them and then schedules any needed repairs in priority order.

City inspectors look at drainage, potholes, ruts and washboards, sinkholes, gravel and manhole covers when grading each back alley,  

Concerns about state of Calgary gravel roads

In Coun. Ward Sutherland’s community newsletter, one resident expressed concerns about their vehicle alignment as a result of the condition of their back alley.

“The entrance to our alley way has been a problem for many years and it is getting worse. I’m concerned the alley way will ruin the alignment of my vehicle,” the individual wrote.

Coun. Sutherland was contacted for this story, but hadn’t responded by the time the story was published.

Calgarians concerned about the state of their area gravel roads can call 311 and fill in a service request. Those wondering about the status of their gravel road can go online to Calgary.ca/backlane to see when a nearby gravel lane is scheduled for maintenance.

‘Kind of a waiting game’: McGeachy

The City of Calgary’s gravel road program generally runs from June through late September or early October. Weather delays are factored into that schedule, but due to this year’s heavy rains and few sunny days, crews have been unable to work on the roads.

“Rain makes the back lanes a little malleable. So we use big grading equipment to level those things out and they’re unable to do that when lanes are too moist. So really it’s just kind of a waiting game where crews go and focus on other tasks and then give it a few days to dry up and then they’re back out there following up on their regular work schedules.” 

McGeachy added, though, he believes crews will be able to handle all requests by the end of the season.

The City inspects the entire back lane network, grades them and then schedules any needed repairs in priority order. LiveWire Calgary.

McGeachy said he feels for those in vehicles that have no choice but to drive through rough gravel roads. He recommends people that are driving through them to watch their speed. Driving fast through gravel roads can disrupt the material and make the situation worse. 

To help crews, McGeachy recommends temporarily removing any obstacles like trailers, cars or black bins from the alley. Back roads that remain cluttered, however, will be taken off this year’s repair schedule.