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Long-awaited Python 5000 pothole machine to begin work soon

The City of Greater Sudbury’s Python 5000 arrived in November and is expected to begin operations within the next week or so, weather permitting
2021-06-15 python screenshot
The Python 5000 pothole patcher currently in use in Timmins. (Image: TimminsToday)

A brand new addition to the city’s fleet is expected to begin filling Greater Sudbury potholes within the next week or so, weather permitting.

“We want to get as much use out of the python as possible, and one of the best times of year to utilize it, when we have a significant amount of potholes, is the winter months,” linear services director Brittany Hallam said during Monday’s operations committee meeting.

The machine in question is the long-awaited Python 5000.

City council approved a business case for the machine on March 11, 2021 and OK’d a tender for approximately $555,000 on Sept. 14. The machine arrived on Nov. 21, which Hallam noted was several months earlier than initially anticipated.

Since that time, the machine has been prepared and staff have completed in-depth training.

The machine, which will carry an annual operating cost of approximately $200,000, is expected to apply an additional 592 metric tonnes of asphalt to local streets per year. 

Python Manufacturing is based in Regina and has supplied Python 5000 machines to the City of Thunder Bay in 2017 at a cost of approximately $343,000 and the City of Timmins in 2020 at a cost of approximately $564,000.

A traditional pothole patching operation requires three to five staff members and several pieces of equipment to install four tonnes of asphalt per day, Hallam said. 

The Python 5000 requires one staff member from start to finish in ideal conditions not requiring traffic control, and carries five tonnes of asphalt. The manufacturer advertises the machines as completing three times as much work as a crew would in the same amount of time.

The machine has been long-talked about in council chambers as a means of prolonging the life of municipal roads, which have been deteriorating in recent years as a result of underfunding

In 2007, local roads — the city’s less-busy streets — had a pavement condition index ranking of 63 (good), while busier collector roads had a ranking of 68.1 (good) and busier arterial roads had a ranking of 72.8 (very good).

The current pavement condition index of local roads is now 47 (fair), while arterial and collector roads are 53 (fair). 

The Python 5000 will be used year-round on Class 1-3 roads because they’re maintained to clear pavement during the winter months, while Class 4-6 are maintained to snowpack. 

There may be some weather restrictions, Hallam said, adding that they’ve been advised the machine might not operate as it should in conditions colder than -10 C, but that these details will be hashed out as the city experiments with the machine. 

The city’s 2022 budget document notes that approximately 80,000 potholes are repaired annually. Potholes can be called into the city’s customer service line at 311, where the street name, nearest address and which lane the pothole is in can be reported.

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.