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Ontario infrastructure has $52B repair backlog, FAO report finds

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Forty-five percent of Ontario’s municipal infrastructure is not in a state of good repair, suggests a new report from the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario.

The current cost to bring those municipal assets into a state of good repair, and eliminate the municipal infrastructure backlog, is about $52 billion, the report states.

The FAO, which provides independent analysis on the state of the province’s finances and trends in the provincial economy, compiled a sector by sector breakdown of the assets in Ontario’s 444 municipalities. On a sector level, municipal roads represent the largest share of the infrastructure backlog cost at $21.1 billion, followed by “other” buildings and facilities such as government administration ($9.5 billion), wastewater ($7.3 billion), potable water ($5.3 billion), bridges and culverts ($4.3 billion), stormwater ($3.8 billion) and transit ($1 billion).

In addition, there is some $47 billion of municipal assets with an unknown condition, the report states.

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The FAO says that maintaining public infrastructure in a state of good repair is generally the most cost-effective strategy over an asset’s life cycle and that postponing repairs raises the risk of service disruption and increases costs.

“Keeping assets in a state of good repair helps to maximize the benefits of public infrastructure, and ensures assets are delivering their intended services in a condition that is considered acceptable from both an engineering and a cost management perspective,” the report states.

To assess whether assets are in a state of good repair, each asset’s condition was compared against standardized performance targets provided by the Ontario Ministry of Infrastructure and further developed by the FAO.

Municipalities have until 2024 under provincial law to develop detailed inventories on municipal assets like infrastructure.

In terms of Ontario wastewater infrastructure, the report estimates a current replacement value of $94.3 billion. Approximately 32.7% of wastewater assets are not in a state of good repair, the report found. Overall, municipalities own an estimated 753 lift stations, 1,817 pump stations and 337 treatment plants. About $71.1 billion of the replacement value accounts for sanitary forcemains and sewer pipes of various sizes.

The wastewater sector, however, is one of the strongest sectors in terms of having a high percentage (67.3%) of its assets in a state of good repair.

For stormwater infrastructure, the situation is very similar to wastewater, with 32.7% of assets not in a state of good repair, and 67% in a state of good repair.

“In addition, the stormwater and wastewater sectors have a significantly higher share of assets without any condition information — increasing the uncertainty associated with the state of repair of these assets,” the report states.

Potable water infrastructure fared significantly better with just 31.5% of those assets not in a state of good repair, making it the best score on the FAO list.

As far as the sector with the most amount of assets not in a state of good repair, the FAO report points to “other” buildings, which can include social housing, waste management facilities, government administration buildings, as well as tourism, culture and sports centres. More than 58% of these structures are not in a state of good repair, the FAO found.

Roads came in next on the list with 56.2% of those in Ontario not being in a state of good repair.

The FAO report also broke down the state of assets by region. The region with the largest share of assets in a state of good repair is the Toronto economic region at 62.3%, which is 7.6 percentage points higher than the provincewide average. In contrast, the Ottawa economic region has the lowest share of assets in a state of good repair at 38.7%, 16.1 percentage points lower than the provincewide average.

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