Calgary pothole audit finds gaps in the repair process

City of Calgary roads crews have already filled more than 11,000 potholes this year

While a large majority of potholes are addressed, there is no indicator of whether it was done well. CITY OF CALGARY WEBSITE

Calgary pothole repair processes need improvements, according to the recent Roads Pothole Remediation Audit.

The report, delivered to a city committee last week, showed that while the road divots get fixed, there’s a lack of consistency in how they’re done and the time it takes to make repairs.

While the potholes might be repaired, there’s no consistent method of indicating that it was done promptly or done well. The audit said that delivery may be effective, but there is no way to ensure it was. This is that because of a lack of key performance measures and monitoring.

Repairing potholes is a part of the continual roadway maintenance by the city’s Roads unit.

Roads director Troy McLeod said there’s been an increase in potholes this year due to the weather. They’ve repaired more than 11,000 potholes whereas in previous years it would have been less than 7,000 at this time.

“Overall I think we’re doing well as far as the response,” he said.

Repairs are mostly done in April through September. Nearly 16,000 potholes are filled on streets and lanes every year.

“Potholes are being repaired on a reasonably prompt basis,” said City Auditor Katharine Palmer.

Pothole repair requests are submitted by citizens through the 311 service requests. Repair requests are prioritized by the severity and safety of the pothole to citizens.

The audit’s results focus on addressing the risk of potholes not being repaired in a timely manner or the repair quality being poor. It suggests several changes for city roads crews.

Issues and recommendations

There are four recommendations to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the pothole repair process.

“The intent of this audit was to look at opportunities to further enhance the process and the decisions being made on pothole repair by the more intentional collection of data,” said Palmer.

The issues and subsequent recommendations are:

  • Potholes are prioritized based on location, type of road, severity, and safety risk to citizens. However, consistent practices are not used to prioritize the repairs. As well, there is inconsistent record keeping and data collection practices.

Roads should put procedures and practices in place that are consistent and supported by training. This will keep data collection reliable to ensure that high priority potholes are repaired on a timely basis.

  • The audit found that Roads does not have appropriate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), associated targets, or a described measure of timeliness to measure pothole repairs.

Roads should define timeliness, establish KPIs and collect appropriate data. This will allow them to determine their progress and whether they’re successful in closing potholes in a prescribed timeframe.

From January to September 2019 some potholes were repaired faster than others. McLeod said some get pushed back a year due to low usage of the road and other priorities occurring. CITY OF CALGARY.
  • Roads uses a best-efforts basis to complete pothole repairs. However, they don’t track whether there’s sufficient availability to support maintenance crews in repairing high priority potholes.

Roads should review resources and equipment and analyze whether more needs to be done to support crews responding to potholes. As well, resolve issues associated with asphalt carriers.

  • There are no established expectations on what a quality pothole repair is.

The audit sees an opportunity to get it right the first time when it comes to operations of pothole repairs. Further repairs may be required if potholes are not repaired to a quality standard, causing additional waste or costs to the city. Expectations of quality need to be outlined and measured to track and report repairs.

Addressing the concerns

McLeod said that potholes could be repaired faster, but they don’t always have the equipment or the personnel on hand to do it. They’re often sent to other high priority or emergency situations.

“If we wanted to have all the potholes repaired in the city, we certainly have the ability to do that,” he said.  

“But that would be at the expense of other core maintenance requirements.”

He said that they haven’t evaluated repaired potholes in the past to see the longevity of the repair. They want to implement the use of GPS coordinates to do that.

“We don’t geolocate and that’s one of the areas we want to improve on,” he said.

“That way we can get the information required to look at the longevity of those types of repairs.”

He said that Roads will do spot checks on repairs and identify a density that pothole repairs should be at. They use density measures for resurfacing but will begin to apply that to pothole repairs as well.

He said they will create measures of consistency on pothole repairs, which is currently based on the use of the road. High priority ones are done within weeks or days depending on when they are notified.

Lack of targets surprising, says Coun. Keating

Councillor Shane Keating said many of the things in the audit shouldn’t have needed an audit to be found and but rather have been done on an ongoing basis.

“The fact that there isn’t any uniform targets across the business unit was surprising,” he said.

Councillor Evan Woolley said the job of the audit was to take an arms-length, independent look at the processes.

“That’s exactly what this audit did and it did a really good job,” he said.

Roads has committed to implement an action plan for the pothole process by December 31.

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