By RYAN KING
RED ROCKS – Reg Chevalier lives in Red Rocks, and the maintenance of the dirt packed Class 3 road has been an issue for almost a year. Driving just a short way on the road to Red Rocks, until recently there were two large areas of water build up. When the water builds up and causes deep ruts in the gravel, it makes for a rough ride for Chevalier and his neighbours. He had been trying for some time to get the road fixed but that took considerable time and patience.
“Last fall, the pothole was there, and I called at that time, which was November. That was passed to Port aux Basques, because Port aux Basques does the plowing here in the wintertime. So the Codroy Valley Department of Transport in Doyles said that we have nothing to do with it because it’s passed to Port aux Basques, but Port aux Basques, they don’t repair. They just plow. So what they did is they came here, they took a picture of it, and they sent that to their headquarters in Pasadena. And then never heard of it again. Nothing was done,” said Chevalier.
He then tried the depot in Doyles, again without success.
“Then there was nothing done again, and didn’t hear nothing, so I called back, and they wouldn’t answer me. I couldn’t get an answer,” said Chevalier. “Two or three times I called.”
He then contacted the office of MHA Scott Reid (St. George’s – Humber), whose assistant advised Chevalier that the road would be taken care of according to priority.
“They told her they would do it in the summer or in the fall. So anyway, the summer went by, nothing done. Now this is late fall, right? The winter is coming. In the centre there you’re going to get water in your car because it’s about a foot deep,” said Chevalier.
Chevalier believes the re-occurring water build up is due to a lack of proper ditching for the road.
“There’s no ditch. The ditch – there’s one ditch on that side – it’s all plugged in. The road is lower than the ditch. So all the water stays on the road. What you could do with that is do some ditching, and there’s a little brook there, you could send all the water there from the ditch and fill this up,” explained Chevalier. “That’s the problem. Only drive through there, in the wintertime, there’s going to be ice in that. And then you’re going to tear all your exhaust system and all that.”
The road to Red Rocks was still in bad condition on Monday Nov. 8, but by Wednesday, Nov. 10, the department of transportation had completed repairs.
“Maintenance needs are prioritized based on manpower, resources and highway classification,” explained Kathryn Summers, the department’s Media Relations Manager. “A maintenance crew placed 52 cubic metres of surface material, cleared debris from some culverts, and completed some ditching.”
Chevalier was pleased with the results, even though it took a while.
“It’s pretty good for what they did,” said Chevalier. “They did a ditch. There should be a ditch on both sides, but they’ve done it on one side. You know, it’s a lot better than what it was.”
MHA Scott Reid has been working to address the poor condition of rural roads within his constituency.
“The district that I represent, St. Georges-Humber, has probably the most rural roads in any district of the province. There are others that are close. Baie Verte district has a lot of rural roads as well,” said Reid.
The challenge of keeping the roads in good condition is compounded by the large geography, as the depot covers the entire South coast, from Blackduck Siding up through St. George’s.
“It’s particularly a challenge because over the last number of years, over the last I would say 25 to 30 years, the roads in the area have deteriorated to the point where they need a lot of maintenance work. And so, the challenge is to try to get some major road work done – paving, and bringing the roads up to snuff, ditching, and things like that. To get that done so that it takes the pressure off the depot so they can deal with the less busy routes, the less traveled roads,” explained Reid.
The growing number of people using rural roads is also a factor, as roads once used for cabins must now serve year-round residents.
“People are selling their homes and they’re moving into their cabins as they retire, and it’s putting more pressure on government to do roads, to add new roads to their inventory, and the government is very resistant to doing that,” said Reid.
Weather conditions have led to some roads getting priority.
“We’re getting more severe weather conditions as well. We’ve had several cases where we’ve had washouts, a lot of washouts on these roads, and things like that, which are on the main roads through the communities,” Reid pointed out. “It’s been a difficult situation, but I feel that we are making some progress in terms of getting some significant road work done.”
It wasn’t just Red Rocks waiting for road work upgrades. The Codroy Valley is anticipating work as well. But once work like this gets done, Reid says that it will give the Department of Transportation the time to take care of less critical work.
“There was supposed to be significant road work done in the Codroy Valley this summer, but it didn’t get done. The company that was doing it got behind, and they had a lot of other work around the province to do. So some of that ditching is getting done now, and the paving will happen next summer,” shared Reid. “Next construction season. So hopefully with that work being done, that’ll take some of the pressure off the depots in terms of repairing other roads.”
Reid sympathizes with residents who are growing weary of waiting on road work while roads with a higher priority get tackled first.
“Sometimes they’re (Dept. of Transportation) able to respond immediately if they’re in the area, but other times if they have like a repair schedule where they’re working on some other work, that sort of takes priority,” said Reid. “But I understand people’s frustration when they can’t get work done, especially if it’s a serious problem on a road.”
When Reid’s office gets a complaint regarding road work, he does reach out to the Department of Transportation.
“We try to send them pictures wherever we can, and to give them a description of where it is and why it’s important, and the problems that it’s causing people,” said Reid. “But they have the final say, right? You know, we’re not the experts in terms of engineering or anything like that. We don’t know what is the most dangerous thing that should be done first.”
Reid knows that the condition of roads in his constituency remains an issue, and says that it will be addressed and progress is being made.
“I’ve had people, various areas around, doing damage to their cars, and stuff like that, so I certainly do recognize the seriousness of this problem. The state of roads are terrible, and it’s been very frustrating for me as I’ve been trying to get something done with this over the last few years, but I feel that this, where we’re sort of making some progress, and we’ll see some significant work in the Codroy Valley this coming construction season.”