March 30, 2022
So, CBC has finally reported upon the deplorable condition of the West Side Middle River detour around the washed-out Gold Brook Bridge. Will this make a difference?
The fact is that locally the poor (very much a euphemism in this instance) condition of this road has been well known for years with little having been done to improve it.
Now, a bridge that recently underwent two seasons of repairs has washed out during a severe autumn storm, taking with it whatever small fortune was wasted in repairs that clearly should have come after structural work to the bridge was first completed. If the existing bridge can be saved (I do not know if replacement is the only option) no doubt the previous work completed will have to be redone so I expect this to be another several seasons before completion. That’s fine; the Cabot Trail is neither a main Cape Breton transportation route nor a Nova Scotian tourist attraction responsible for multiple millions of annual tourism revenue. Oh, wait, that’s exactly what it is!
The necessary detour has clearly placed unexpected strain upon a road that was already in poor condition and has since arguably been destroyed. Having driven it last week I can say that the photos I have seen do not do justice to its condition. Both the main route and the detour need extensive repairs/rebuilding to even approach a reasonable standard.
Then there’s the bridge on MacLellan’s Cross Road, now a part of the detour. A very large portion of its wooden surface is now gone leaving exposed both the lower surface and its nails and also requiring extensive repairs. This is, no doubt, in part because of an exponential increase in traffic upon it. It shouldn’t require someone explaining to the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal that nails and tires do not mix well.
All of this, however, detracts from the larger story which is the deplorable condition of many of Cape Breton’s, and perhaps the rest of the province’s, roads. Highway 105 (the Trans Canada Highway, by the way), one of two main highways between Sydney and the mainland, is also in a sad state of repairs.
There are numerous locations where large potholes have remained for so long that motorists have learned to swerve around them as a part of their route. Some of these have been left without repair for years.
Between Whycocomagh and Wagmatcook there are lengthy sections where motorists must either drive very close to the center line or with their right wheels on the paved shoulder in order to avoid series of potholes that run for a kilometre or more at a time.
Between Baddeck and Kelly’s Mountain are several sections where, rather than complete effective repairs, permanent signs have been installed warning of rough sections. Repairs that have been done, as far as I or anyone else can see, consist of simply adding more asphalt every year and letting the holes continue to form beneath the highway.
In February, my father hit a pothole in St. Ann’s one night on his way home from Sydney. The result of this impact being a ruined tire (for which he still, despite having applied, has yet to receive compensation) and a tow to Baddeck. In speaking with the tow truck driver, he learned he was the sixth motorist that weekend to ruin a tire at the same pothole. Perhaps the department requires serious injury or worse before repairing such potholes. I’m not sure what is required for them mark such hazards.
The Marble Mountain Road between Orangedale and Crowdis Bridge is so full of potholes that workers are regularly seen hand-tamping asphalt into them in the way of half-assed repairs. This is great, but there are no understandable criteria for choosing which holes are filled or left as each time these repairs are done, they miss or intentionally ignore potholes large enough to ruin tires.
These are only a few of the worst instances of infrastructure neglect of which I am familiar; I have no doubt your readers may fill your pages with many more. Until our various levels of government undertake not only repairs but reasonable and regular maintenance may I suggest a new welcome to motorists be painted upon the causeway? I feel it should read “Welcome to Cape Breton – Enter at Your Own Risk.”
Valley Mills, NS