There are patches upon patches on Fielding Road’s pavement, and area business owners are in the midst of a decades-long endeavour to get something done about it.
According to a City of Greater Sudbury spokesperson, the road has a pavement condition index of 34, which is classified as “poor,” and there is no current capital budget identified for road improvements or pavement rehabilitation for the road in the current three-year outlook.
Located to the immediate west of Kelly Lake, Fielding Road serves several large industrial companies, which in addition to dealing with poor road conditions do not have access to municipal water or sewer services.
When CCM Contracting president and Equipment North and Metex Manufacturing founder Peter Matusch started investing in the area in 1986, he said the pre-amalgamation municipality of the day pledged water and sewer services within the year.
Now 35 years later, the City of Greater Sudbury has finally moved on this pledge.
Or, at least started to.
In expanding their Metex Manufacturing operations, the Matusch family was required to install a reservoir at a cost of approximately $700,000 in order to satisfy fire regulations.
“For about the same price we were able to cost-share with the city to bring municipal services in,” said Ryan Matusch, vice president of Equipment North and owner of Metex Manufacturing.
A water main that links to a Lively subdivision is currently under construction and is expected to be online within a month.
Although this is good news for Metex Manufacturing, which is in the water main’s immediate vicinity due to an easement granted to the municipality, Ryan clarified it’s unlikely to help the balance of the area’s business community.
“It’ll be many more years before any of the other businesses will get access to water,” he said, adding that for many, tapping into the water main at their own expense will prove prohibitively expensive.
Among his ongoing frustrations is that these businesses pay significant municipal taxes but don’t reap the benefits.
Meanwhile, Fielding Road’s pavement has devolved into a network of “patches upon patches upon patches,” Ryan said. In addition to contributing to vehicles’ wear and tear, the road has become an embarrassment among area business leaders.
“Some of these companies compete globally - they’re massive companies - but we’re embarrassed to bring people here because it looks like a backwater.”
Although a recent meeting between area business owners, municipal representatives and Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini felt constructive, Ryan isn’t holding his breath.
“This isn’t a new thing,” he said of the meeting, a version of which seems to take place every few years.
“It’s done to give the perception that something is going to be done in the future and that wheels are turning somewhere in the city, but then we’ll have another meeting in four years’ time to discuss the same thing and zero progress.”
The ambiguity as to when work will finally take place has been an ongoing frustration for Vagnini, who has been advocating for the city to take action since he was first elected in 2014.
“I’ve always been told that it’s on the block, we’re going to address it, but it’s never been addressed,” he said.
Fielding Road services one of the “great economic hubs in the city,” Vagnini said, and the city’s failure to maintain it at a reasonable level is “actually a crime and a sin from an economic standpoint.”
Vagnini also lamented the degradation of other area streets, such as those in the Walden Industrial Park, whose pavement he said also requires serious work.
City administration responds
“Fielding Road, the automatic question is, when will it ever become a priority? And the answer to that is when it becomes a strategic investment.”
So described City of Greater Sudbury growth and infrastructure general manager Tony Cecutti, who added, “The solutions aren’t obvious and they’re not inexpensive.”
There are a number of complications when it comes to roadwork along Fielding Road.
For one, he said the road has degraded to such an extent that it will need to be completely rebuilt.
“The heavy truck traffic that uses Fielding Road, the road’s not designed for those kinds of conditions, so it’s what we would term as structurally failed,” he said.
“If we simply took the old asphalt off and put new asphalt on there’s a good chance the road wouldn’t survive for more than two or three years and it would be in the same condition it is now.”
Further, he said it’d be useful to know what area property owners want to do about water and sewer.
Although a cost-sharing formula could be a subject of conversation with city council, Cecutti said the installation of municipal water and sewer lines would currently be paid for by affected property owners.
“At various times over the course of history there have been expressions of interest to get some funding from senior levels of government, and in fact, in some cases, senior levels of government expressed some interest as well,” he said, adding that nothing has ever come to fruition.
Roadwork is a municipal obligation, which would come in conjunction with the installation of water and sewer lines as their installation would require the road to be torn up.
The province has also expressed interest in creating an overpass or underpass at Fielding Road and Highway 17, which would eliminate the opportunity for traffic to turn from the highway onto Fielding Road and vice versa.
This, he said, might increase traffic volume on Fielding Road and make roadwork a priority.
At the same time, he said the nagging question of water and sewer infrastructure would persist.
“We don’t want to upgrade a road today only to learn two years from now we’re going to dig it up to put pipes underground.”
Fielding Road is unique in certain respects, but Cecutti said the city’s assets are under constant review and that there are various other roads and infrastructure projects under consideration at any given time.
“It’s nice to see there’s renewed interest in Fielding Road,” he said. “I’m glad to see business owners expressing some interest because it’s certainly not a road that anyone could be proud of.”
In light of this recent interest, he said the city is currently working to figure out updated costs associated with installing underground infrastructure along Fielding Road.
“Hopefully there’s some kind of conclusion in the near future and we can decide where it sits and what kind of investments can be made.”
The issue of pavement quality came up during the City of Greater Sudbury’s Aug. 17 finance and administration meeting, during which it was announced the city would have to spend an additional estimated $100 million per year to maintain its assets in their current condition.
This includes Greater Sudbury roads, which according to a report by city administration are currently being funded at a rate that would result in arterial and collector roads degrading from an average pavement condition index of 53 (fair) to 47 (still fair) in 10 years. During this same timeline, local roads would degrade from their current average of 47 to 34 (poor -- the same current rating as Fielding Road).