Significant new City of Ottawa road cut fees will reduce permitting delays, add to city’s payroll

stock photo road work
©CAN STOCK PHOTO/VIPERAGP

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

Developers and contractors cutting into Ottawa’s roads for new subdivisions and projects will face significant new fees if, as expected, City Council approves changes to the Road Activity Bylaw and temporary construction encroachments permit rules on Wednesday (Nov. 10).

As well, the city is preparing to hire the equivalent of 10 full-time workers to manage the permit system ,with an anticipated annual $1.17 million budget. The new rules will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

The National Capital Heavy Construction Association (NCHCA) – representing contractors doing the work – supports the city’s hiring decision because the association’s leaders expect the additional staffing will reduce current serious permitting delays.

NCHCA members have been needing to wait “four to six weeks to obtain a road cut permit and up to 10 days for the streamlined process for Infrastructure Services projects, instead of the target 24 to 48 hours,” NCHCA president Steve McEachen told the city’s Transportation Committee on Nov. 1. “This is not a new issue and is not COVID related,” he said. “It is a recurring issue every construction season.”

McEachen, who is also the general manager of Aecon Construction’s Ottawa office, told committee members that delayed permits are causing serious problems.  

“They hinder progress on vital infrastructure projects, delay subdivision development, and interfere with our ability to meet our contractural obligations,” he told the committee. “Projects may, in some cases, be pushed into the following years. In addition to significant downtime costs, delay penalties may be levied against contractors by infrastructure owners.”

In response, city officials calculated the cost of adding resources to solve the delay problem and have proposed new fees to recover the extra costs.

For example, there will be a new $1,090 Temporary Road Closure Application Fee, and an increase in the application fee for “complex” Temporary Construction Encroachment Permits from $68.00 to $855.00 (an 1,157.4% increase.)

The city also proposes to impose Road Cut Degradation Fees, on a sliding scale based on how recently the road had previously been resurfaced. The new fee would be $59.00 per sq. m. for roads up to three years old, dropping to $16.90 for roads 20 or more years old.

Speaking to the committee, McEachen said: “We understand that an increase in fees and/or new feeds are proposed to cover the cost of additional staff, however, we find it hard to understand why an essential service with such a high impact is dependent on cost recovery as opposed to service delivery.”

That said, McEachen said: “In closing, NCHCA fully supports the request for additional staff if it will now and ensure that road cut permits are issued in a timely fashion.”

Utility companies would be subject to broader requirements when resurfacing cuts into pavements that are less than three years old, and all road cuts within one metre of the curb would have to be resurfaced all the way to the curb, the city says in a statement. Pavement degradation fees would be updated to reflect the greater cost to the city from cuts into asphalt roads.

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