WOODPOINT, N.B. – Frustration continues to mount for residents in West Sackville as they deal with a road closure once again that cuts them off from services and leaves many facing long detours to work and school every day.
This weekend’s storm that brought high winds and heavy rains flooded the temporary access road that was built this summer to move traffic around a construction project that, ironically, is expected to alleviate flooding problems at the intersection of Route 935, in the Carters Brook area.
“The current conditions in Westcock, British Settlement, Woodpoint and beyond are pretty bad and (Saturday) night it was just plain dangerous,” said Westcock resident Ann Mitton. “These communities were completely cut off.”
At the height of the storm Saturday night and into Sunday morning, all routes in and out of West Sackville were either flooded or blocked by downed trees. And while all but Route 935 has since been re-opened, Mitton said many residents were left nervous of what would happen in case of an emergency.
“There are people here who need to be heard and someone has to care that folks didn’t sleep (Saturday) night, not because of the wind or rain but because they were afraid,” she said. “This is not just an inconvenience; this is not people expecting more than they deserve or require. This mess is unacceptable.”
She shudders to think what would have happened if there was a medical emergency Saturday night when the community was cut off; or a flue fire that could have gotten out of control with the high winds.
“Saturday evening was scary for many people living here,” said Mitton.
Sackville Fire Chief Craig Bowser said as is usually done when flooding is expected, his department takes a proactive approach and places a fire truck with equipment on the other side of the intersection in case of an emergency. He said this includes medical supplies and an AED defibrillator. There are about 10 local firefighters who live in West Sackville so they are able to respond if needed. Bowser also noted that the Dorchester Fire Department can access the area via the back way.
Flooding problems have plagued the area for decades and the New Brunswick Department of Transportation and Infrastructure had begun a construction project in July to fix the issues. DTI hired a construction company to do the work, which involves installing three large concrete aboiteaux and raising the road slightly. It was the temporary access road that was built around the project that became submerged on Saturday as a result of the heavy rains and the incoming tide.
Jeremy Trevors, a communications spokesperson for DTI, said work began on Monday to rebuild the detour to a higher elevation and it will open to the travelling public as soon as possible.
The town of Sackville posted on its Facebook page Monday afternoon that the contractor is hoping to have the 935 access open by Thursday, weather pending.
“They will be raising the temporary access by an additional meter and need to reinforce it before it will be safe for traffic. We would like to thank the area residents for their patience,” the post stated.
But Mitton said it’s hard to be patient when lives are being put at risk and when residents aren’t being informed of what’s happening.
“Where is a real contingency plan?” she asked. “Where do we go in the event of rising water? How do we let people know what to do? What if the internet is down for some reason?”
She said merely posting a notice on Facebook does nothing for residents like her elderly father; he does not even own a computer or a smart phone and he is not alone either.
“There has been nothing done by way of worst-case scenario or, if it has, it has not been shared with the community.”
She also said patience is wearing thin for people traveling to work or school, who have to have to tack on an additional 45 minutes to an hour to their trip every day. And some of the alternate routes are not accessible for some, as they require a four-wheel drive or an ATV to get through.
“We will not have ‘normal’ traffic for days now. And the weather forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday may bring more high winds and water.”
Mitton said residents are also questioning whether DTI has actually placed this project as a priority. She wonders why the work crews, who began the project in July, were pulled off the site for several weeks during the best weather of the summer.
“Had they continued to work at that time, the road would be complete by now and the mess (Saturday) night never would have happened. But all my father got from talking to the previous MLA about the pulled crews was political rhetoric and vague excuses.”
Trevors said the work this summer on the Carter's Brook culvert was delayed due to an issue with land acquisition as well as weather conditions.
"The land required for the work was not available until late July," he said, also noting that flooding in late August resulted in required repairs and additional work on the detour.
Since that time, however, the project has been progressing and the three culverts are now installed.
“However they are currently under water and the contractor is pumping the water out of the site to allow for work to continue as soon as possible.”
He said the project is expected to be “substantially” completed and the road ready to be opened by mid-December.