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Why Toronto's roads are full of holes this winter Add to ...

The 29 Dufferin bus is a bone-rattling ride northbound from the Dufferin Gate loop. It weaves its way around parked cars, pylons and potholes – up one of Ontario’s worst roads for the past seven years.

Dufferin Street has held the top spot on Ontario’s Worst Roads list since 2012, after five years in the top 10. The designation comes from the CAA’s annual campaign that asks people to vote for the road that needs the most improvements; these are then inspected by the Ontario Road Builders Association so the information can be shared with municipalities. With less than a month left in the CAA campaign, Dufferin Street is tied with Stanley Avenue in Niagara Falls for worst road in the province.

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Toronto roads are more in need of repair this spring than usual. This week, city council voted to allocate an extra $4-million to repair Toronto roads deteriorated by the harsh winter. The funding was added to the 2014 operating budget for transportation services from a reserve for road and sidewalk repair.

The city has repaired 131,000 potholes, at a cost of about $17 each, since the beginning of the year. Over the same period last year, the city only filled 69,000 potholes, according to John Mende, the city’s director of transportation infrastructure management. He attributes the additional damage to this winter’s storms.

“The salt melts the ice and snow and the water seeps into the cracks in the pavement. When that water freezes beneath or within the pavement, it forces the asphalt up [which] causes damage to the driving surface,” Mr. Mende says.

While the additional $4-million will be used to repair potholes, cracked pavement and problem areas around maintenance holes and catch basins, Mr. Mende says the figure shouldn’t be translated into an increased number of pothole repairs.

While Dufferin Street has been considered one of the worst roads in Ontario since 2006, repairs were intentionally delayed during the construction of the underpass at Queen Street from 2008 to 2010 and water main work last year. A big part of its dismal designation has to do with the long construction projects.

“We deferred the repair of Dufferin Street because with all the construction traffic, we didn’t want to fix the road and then have the construction traffic damage it,” Mr. Mende says.

Repairs to the surface of Dufferin Street are now slated for this spring as part of the city’s 2014 capital program.

As a crossing guard on Dufferin Street for 10 years, Kathleen Byers knows the problems that plague the road all too well.

During lunch hour at Alexander Muir/Gladstone Avenue Junior and Senior Public School, Ms. Byers dances to her portable radio and helps kids safely cross the street south of Dundas Street West.

“Dufferin does get a lot of heavy traffic – transports, dump trucks, buses, you name it, right?” she says. “Nothing seems to help.”

“You can’t go more than 15 or 20 [km/h] because your car is going to fall apart,” says Elly Debem, who drives daily to the corner of Dundas West and Dufferin streets, where she works at the Hogtown Cure deli-café. “It’s literally one of the worst streets I’ve ever experienced.”

She says she had two flat tires within three months last year from driving to work on the pothole-ridden street. “It’s always been bad … but it’s never been as bad as it is now,” she says.

Her manager, Steve Ireson, who opened the Hogtown Cure about a year ago, says his business hasn’t been negatively affected by the road conditions, but it has been affected by constant construction on the street. “I know if I’m going somewhere, I try to steer away from [construction],” he says.

But a block north of the deli, business at the College and Dufferin Dental Clinic has been affected by the road’s constant need for repair, to the point that staff expect patients to be late.

“I can definitely say that our client base would be significantly increased if improvements were being made to the street,” Ben Reyhanian, the office’s manager, says.

According to Faye Lyons of CAA South Central Ontario, the main complaints from voters for the Worst Roads List have been potholes and poor infrastructure.

The city looks at the CAA’s annual list in addition to reports from their own inspectors when sending out crews to repair roads across Toronto, according to Mr. Mende.

The CAA is again asking the government to set up a permanent fund dedicated to infrastructure repair and maintenance from $3.1-billion generated annually from gas taxes, according to Ms. Lyons. “A well-maintained road would stand up a lot better to our fluctuating temperatures.”

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