The real issue facing Regina’s construction catastrophe
Let’s talk about construction
It’s no secret to any Saskatchewan resident that summertime is construction time – one of the primary seasons of the country. While it is irritating that construction sites pop up all over the city during the one time of year when Regina roads aren’t slicked with ice, normally they don’t pose too much of an obstruction. That is, until this year.
For some reason, the City of Regina thought that closing down chunks of almost every major road was an effective way to handle construction season. At any given time, pieces of Ring Road, Victoria Avenue, Lewvan Drive, Dewdney Avenue, and Albert Street (among others) were restricted. Many Regina residents vocalized their complaints with the city, claiming that this was a result of poor planning and management that city staff should take into consideration for future construction plans.
It is absolutely ridiculous for the city to continue to close down major routes while others are under construction. People like myself would find ways to avoid construction to discover days later that, yet again, the City of Regina would be closing down another section of that route for necessary construction.
Claiming that navigating through traffic can be frustrating, as mayor Michael Fougere said to Global News , understates how ridiculous these decisions are. Just a few weeks ago, I watched as an ambulance attempted to manoeuvre through a heavily backed-up area of construction during morning traffic. I was horrified thinking about just how long an ambulance with sirens blazing was going to be stuck at a standstill. The worst part was this ambulance couldn’t have taken a better route, as every feasible one was also blocked off for other construction projects.
Traffic issues are more than just frustrating. They are an additional pressure and a problem for everyday life in the city. Traffic is inconsistent, which creates an issue for people going to work. People try to work around construction routes to find new alternatives, only for those to be shut down as well. The City of Regina can only pin the problems on citizens for so long before taking actual accountability for their poor planning.
Worst of all, however, is how the City of Regina responded to the justified and angry complaints of its citizens by misrepresenting arguments and not addressing the actual concerns at hand. Michael Fougere represented the public’s concerns as frustration that construction needs to be completed at all, which is far from reality.
The issues Regina drivers have with the current construction setup has absolutely nothing to do with the actual need for construction. People are fairly understanding that roads need to be maintained for safety, and we can accept that, but the issue at hand is the planning and timing for these construction projects.
Instead of addressing the concerns as to why the city decided to close down almost every major street at the same time during construction season, the City of Regina made it look like the residents of the city were complaining that construction was happening at all. All citizens are asking for is transparency in how the city selects which areas are to be fixed and when, and to that question we have yet to receive an answer.
To make matters worse, most of these construction projects are no small feat, meaning that these roads will be closed and restricted for anywhere from a month to 12 weeks—for many people, a majority, if not all, of their summer.
Now, many of Regina residents are bringing attention to how behind the city is on how it handles construction – listing how other cities have 24/7 construction crews, crews that only work at night, and crews that work on weekends to maximize work and lessen the amount of time a route is under construction.
In fact, some Regina residents living in the east end by Arcola have claimed that construction blockages are actually making travel more dangerous and more inconvenient rather than effective, as the city hoped their setups would be. Instead, residents say that the blockades are actually making traffic flow even worse.
The backlash has generated a reaction from Fougere, saying that he recognizes that this year’s construction needs are unique and that planning should be handled differently going forward. He also noted in a Global News interview that they were going to look into 24-hour crews in the future and for appropriate projects.
While the dust seems to be settling and the backlash dies down, the fact remains that the 2019 construction season is another example of poor planning on the City of Regina’s end. Whether or not they are actually considering 24/7 work crews will become apparent in time, as their claim that they will use the measure ‘when appropriate’ leaves the decision up to their own discretion. After all, what if they don’t deem a single opportunity as ‘appropriate’?
The truth of the matter is that the City of Regina struggles with listening to the thoughts of its people and taking their requests seriously. Instead, Regina seems to be all about PR, wanting to appear as though everything is under control despite complaints from their residents. Through this ordeal, it seems that appearing as though things are in order means more than actually keeping things in order.
At the end of the day, this is yet another example of the City of Regina being faced with criticism and refusing to properly address it. While there is still hope for the city using this summer as an example for future planning endeavours, avoiding answering the questions the people want to know and refusing to take the proper accountability clearly generated more problems than the city originally anticipated.
Hopefully, leading into the future, the City of Regina will take the thoughts of their people into consideration and will weigh it heavier than how they are seen in the eyes of the public.