Last Saturday we wrote about a badly mended utility cut on Woburn Ave. that a woman tripped over, smashing her face and breaking her arm. The city says that stretch of sidewalk is scheduled for permanent repairs in 2017.
“She has separated ribs, cuts and bruises and a lump on her head from this encounter with the utility cut. We are very lucky that her injuries were not worse and that there were people around to help.”
The people who trip over cuts with substandard patches are often elderly and usually don’t make a fuss about their injuries to the city, which conveniently allows it to underestimate the danger and consequences.
We raised that issue with Kyp Perikleous, director of transportation services in the Toronto-East York district, who insists the city has gotten a lot better at responding to problems with utility cuts in recent years.
The city issues about 55,000 utility permits annually, about 22,000 of which are for cuts, said Perikleous. Each cut permit can be for as few as one cut, or possibly dozens, he said, adding that federal legislation gives utilities as-of-right access to the area beneath roads and sidewalks.
The city’s prescribed standard requires “asphalt capping that has to be flush with the surrounding surface, with no tripping hazards,” he explained.
Ideally, the temporary patch is permanently repaired within 18 months to two years. But the lag time can sometimes stretch to upwards of three years, if there are longer term plans to resurface a road or rebuild a sidewalk, he said.
The city typically tenders a contract to permanently repair all cuts in a given geographic area, said Perikleous, and bills the cost to utilities responsible for the digging.
Meanwhile, utility-cut patrollers keep watch over patches to make sure they comply with standards, but rely on reports from the public to 311 to get to others that may have escaped their attention, he said.
The city is working on reducing the lag time between temporary and permanent patching, he said. A pilot project (with encouraging results) let utility contractors permanently patch their own cuts, instead of the city tendering them.
As far as we’re concerned, they’ll need to be watched like foxes in a henhouse.
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