Lets face it – we’re not big fans of asphalt.
Especially asphalt pathways.
And certainly not asphalt pathways through greenspaces.
We are for active linkages that connect neighbourhoods and that support recreational and active transportation opportunities. And we would like to believe that trail improvements to existing pathway systems can provide those opportunities at reasonable costs using environmentally sensitive materials and without excessive construction that disrupts delicate greenspaces. At a time when we need to make decisions that combat climate change this is a quality of life issue that makes sense.
What doesn’t make sense is the asphalt component the City is choosing to use for the construction of new pathways and the rehabilitation of existing pathways.
Case in point is the Grantham Rail Trial in north St.Catharines. The former CNR Lakeshore Spur Line that runs from Roehampton Ave. to Parnell Rd. has been an active recreational trial since 2002. It’s a quaint neighbourhood to neighbourhood trial that spans nearly 4000 metres. It’s worn from use over the past 20 years and is in need of a facelift. Kudos to the City for identifying its importance as a ‘missing link’ that will benefit from surface improvements. It’s all in the City’s Transportation Master Plan and the Official Plan as well as previous trial master plans. The RFP (Request For Proposal) for the project identified 2 options for the trial surface – a granular surface, and you guessed it, an asphalt surface. The City chose the asphalt option even though it came in over budget, requires extensive excavation and disposal and may cause drainage issues that will require some culvert installation. And all at a cost of $1,565,000. Yep, we know …. The cost of doing business.
Let’s face it once again … asphalt is an option that shouldn’t be an option.
Asphalt pavement is a high VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) substance that emits a witches brew of organic compounds that pollute the air and water. It typically has a lifespan of 20-25 years but narrow pathways, such as the profile proposed with this project, can require significant repairs within 10-15 years.
Granular pathways, on the other hand, are water permeable, contain aggregate that is often recycled content, can typically be sourced locally, and reduces the heat island effect by reflecting solar radiation, rather than retaining heat. And the cost of a granular surface is considerably less expensive than asphalt, requires less maintenance and lasts longer. Look no further than the main access pathway at Malcolmson Eco-Park also in north St.Catharines. It was constructed in the mid 90’s and with only minimal maintenance and repairs is still highly functional and of course environmentally friendly. And that’s really the tipping point. We urgently need to embrace green alternatives if there is any hope of mitigating climate change.
The bottom line is that pathways using a granular substitute instead of asphalt significantly reduces the environmental impact of trial linkages. And while there are considerable savings in using a granular substitute as opposed to asphalt those savings pale in terms of environmental pay-offs. In this case the City got everything right except the … you know …. the asphalt.