Residents want short-term solution, fed up with lengthy detour
Dorchester Mayor J.J. Bear, left, speaks during last week’s public meeting on the road closure of Rte. 106 between the village and Memramcook. Also on hand for the meeting were, left to right, Dorchester fire chief Greg Partridge, Tantramar MLA Mike Olscamp, Bernard LeBlanc, MLA for Memramcook-Lakeville-Dieppe, and Ross Fisher, a representative from the department of transportation and infrastructure. TOWER PHOTO
DORCHESTER, N.B. – Dorchester and area residents came seeking answers. Unfortunately, they left without getting the ones they were looking for.
Residents who attended last Friday afternoon’s public meeting at St. Ed’s Hall in Dorchester say they are frustrated officials continue to put off their concerns about the road closure along Route 106 between Memramcook and Dorchester, which has been flooded over for more than a month now, blocking off one of the main roadways to and from the village.
“It’s not fair to the residents of Dorchester for you guys to wait until someone figures out when they want to fix the issue,” said Katrina O’Brien.
Residents say they can appreciate that local, provincial and federal officials are finally working towards a longer-term, permanent fix for the flooding issue. But in the meantime, the inconvenience and added costs of the lengthy detour to get around the flooded road are beginning to add up. And they are demanding a short-term solution be found so they no longer have to travel more than an hour out of their way to get to work or school every day.
“Just raise the elevation and fix the road,” said longtime resident Paul Spence. “If it was a road to the casino in Moncton, you’d fix it . . . it would be paved in gold.”
Although many areas of the province have seen their floodwaters recede over the past few weeks, the section of Route 106 near Dorchester continues to remain under water as a result of a collapsed culvert under the CN rail line, creating a situation where the tidewaters are not able to move out as fast as they are moving in.
Although no CN representatives were on hand at last week’s meeting in Dorchester, Tantramar MLA Mike Olscamp said he has been in touch with them and CN will be working to address the issue. But he cautioned the work won’t happen overnight.
Olscamp explained that CN plans to install a series of new, larger pipes under the rail bed to better handle the volume of water that continues to mount each year as a result of more extreme weather events. CN has already hired a consulting firm but will still need time to obtain the proper environmental permits and issue a tender before work can begin.
A timeline has not been set in stone but “I’m told as soon as things are dry, they will start that process.”
“CN will do something about this, I assure you,” said Olscmap. “If it’s not rectified in a reasonable time, I will take the hit myself.”
But residents don’t want to wait for CN to get around to fixing it. They say that could take several months and they are asking the provincial government to take action now to get the road re-opened.
“Why are we waiting for CN to deal with it?” asked O’Brien.
Richard Swift, an area resident involved in the construction business, suggested a temporary modular bridge could be put in or the road raised up about two-and-a-half feet with sandstone and gravel.
“It’s just a small section,” he said, noting there wouldn’t be a significant cost involved. “And it would give CN more time to do what they need to do . . . and then everyone’s happy.”
Ross Fisher, an engineer with the New Brunswick Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, said the residents’ suggestions will be brought back to his department for consideration, saying they are possible options that could be pursued. But he said there are no plans “at this time” to fix the road as a temporary measure.
“We are waiting for the water to recede and for CN to address the drainage issue,” said Fisher.
Dorchester Mayor JJ Bear said the road closure has affected his community in many ways, despite being outside the village limits.
“It’s an inconvenience in many ways,” said Bear of the residents, school children and workers who face significant detours every day, not to mention the added traffic along the other roads.
He said the meeting was a good first step towards getting answers about why that section of road is chronically flooding and what is being done to alleviate the problem.