Major road projects planned for Victoria Co.
West Side Middle River Road, Hwy 105 Tim Hortons/irving and Seal Island Bridge named in 5-year plan
Residents of Victoria County can look forward to three major roadway projects in 2018 that, by many accounts, are long overdue.
In the 2018-19 Five-year Highway Improvement Plan released Dec. 19, projects at West Side Middle River Road in Middle River, the Tim Hortons /Irving complex outside Baddeck and Seal Island Bridge got the green light.
In total, the plan calls for $285 million in capital spending on highways, bridges and roads in 2018-19, $60 million more than this year.
The plan also earmarks $10 million in new spending for a gravel road program intended to rebuild existing gravel roads in rural Nova Scotia in a manner that will improve safety and reduce maintenance costs. It is not clear if any of that money will be spent in Cape Breton. The Five-year Highway Improvement Plan is subject to approval in the 2018-19 budget.
Here is a closer look at what residents can expect with each project.
West Side Middle River Road
The provincial plan calls for 5.7Km of ‘maintenance paving’, starting at the beginning of the road at Highway 105 in Nyanza. The Standard reached out to Peter Hackett, Chief Engineer for the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (DTIR), to define ‘maintenance paving’.
“It’s really a clean-up of the surface of the road, so it's not getting into a lot of drainage work or replacing of culverts. It's getting the surface of the road cleaned up to make it passable and to give you a better driving surface.”
Hackett said that a complete road rebuild is an expensive procedure. The process being called for involves a preliminary cleanup of potholes followed by a “fairly thick” lift of asphalt spread over the entire surface of the road, from shoulder to shoulder.
Hackett said the paving won’t solve the road’s problems for the next twenty years, but it will for “a good long time.”
West Side Middle River Road has been a sore point in Middle River for years. Last year, the road garnered attention when runoff from a heavy spring storm overwhelmed a culvert near Macdonald Lane, washing out a swath of the road approximately thirty feet wide and twenty feet deep. With the provincial election in full swing, Premier Stephen Mcneil, then MLA Pam Eyking and Conservative Candidate (now Victoria-the Lakes MLA) Keith Bain all made visits to what became locally known as ‘the gulch’.
Baddeck library assistant and Middle River resident Kate Oland was inspired to write a song about the state of the road. The tune found its way onto CBC Radio’s As it Happens in May.
Residents have had their hopes raised before when teams have come out to survey the road, and even spray paint the pavement with markers. When asked what the likelihood of this project going ahead was, Hackett replied: “If it’s on the plan, the plan is for it to take place.”
Hackett said while some 100-series highway projects get delayed due to issues such as acquiring land, secondary road improvements are most often completed once they are named in the document.
The specific timeline of the project is not yet known, but will happen sometime during paving season (May to October).
Tim Hortons / Irving near Baddeck
Residents and tourists have experienced the chaotic nature of traffic that enters and exits the Tim Hortons / Irving complex along Highway 105 just west of Baddeck – particularly in summer months. However, multiple attempts by Municipal Councillors to raise the issue with DTIR have previously been met with resistance to reduce speed or make infrastructure changes.
Safety improvement is part of the additional $60 million that was announced in the plan. When Hackett asked local staff to name access points along 100-series highways that could be improved, the Baddeck location was named.
Hackett said a design for the ‘access improvement’ is not yet complete, but it will likely involve a designated turn left lane for eastbound vehicles attempting to enter the complex. He said the design may resemble the traffic pattern designed at the Tim Hortons / Irving complex in We'koqma'q.
To his knowledge, Hackett says there has been no discussion about cost-sharing of the project with owners of the complex. Improvements are intended for the provincial right-of-way and do not address
the flow of traffic once vehicles are on the private premise. Though Hackett did not comment on the specific property in question, he did say there are ways to improve the “channelization of traffic” (the way in which traffic flows) on and off the property. Great Bras d’or Crossing Bridge (Seal Island)
Motorists have experienced several lane closures on the Seal Island Bridge over the past two years. In October 2016, the bridge experienced two days of closures when an overhead truss needed repair. In late September 2017, single lane closures occurred for several days while crews made inspections to the bridge.
The province’s plan names it a “major bridge project”, which means more lane closures can be expected over the next year.
“The bridge will be going through a planned full inspection next year which will determine any rehab the bridge will require over future years,” Hackett wrote in a Dec. 27 email.
Due to the uncertainty of the level of repairs needed, the bridge has been listed as a project spanning from 2018-2023.