Sunday, September 26, 2021

Residents call for urgent action on unsafe road

  • January 13 2021
  • By Janice Christie, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    

HARRIGAN COVE – Atkins Point Road is a secondary road in Harrigan Cove with 30 residents in 16 homes. Initially a loop connected by a bridge, it has been barricaded by DOT since 2015 due to the breakdown of the abutment at either end.

The closure creates additional distance to travel to a causeway to gain access and wreaks havoc with snowplows and delivery trucks that need to turn now without the loop. It also severs the flow through the village on the loop and there are no turning areas at the remaining dead ends.

Christopher Snow built his home on Snow’s Island, a short distance from the now closed bridge, and he spoke with The Journal via email about the problems for residents.

“DOT claims that the bridge would now be in the $60,000 range to repair. They don’t seem to consider the alternative cost of removing the structure, remediation, expropriating property for turning, signage, barricades, etc.,” he wrote.

In 2012, residents were told it would cost $3,000 to $5,000 to fix the bridge but DOT could not accept the private money offered to do the work.

Snow reviews the consequence: “Slowly but surely, neglect results in what it always does – deterioration – which led to 2015, when we all got a letter stating that the bridge would be closed on Oct. 19. Then it was realized that that was federal election day, so another letter made the rounds for a week or so later.”

Drivers who use Google maps are directed down the road, “… as if the bridge is there,” Snow said. “Many, many tractor trailers had to be backed up the entire kilometre to the #7 highway. Delivery drivers hate it.”

There are six small businesses that operate out of Atkins Point Road.

Snow explained the loop design is necessary to safely keep the ancillary vehicles to those businesses flowing easily.

“Freight and delivery trucks can’t turn in someone’s driveway,” he said.

A community group, coordinated by Molly Gammon, is questioning the condition of Atkins Point Road and is pushing for repairs.

An Oct. 9 on-site meeting was held with residents, DOT engineer Michael Balsom and Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) District 2 Councillor David Hendsbee to discuss the options for road upgrades and the future of the bridge. Guysborough-Eastern Shore-Tracadie MLA and provincial transportation minister Lloyd Hines had been contacted for support and connected Gammon with the engineer.

“This is an old bridge [on Atkins Point Road] that was closed many years ago. It is currently barricaded,” Balsom told The Journal by phone. “The structure was deemed unusable by vehicles and no work is planned for repair. The options being looked at are removal of the structure or divesting the bridge and right-of-way.”

The engineer presented the group with two options: remove the bridge with a crane or create a walking path – at costs of about $5,000.

Gammon said, “We declined and we need that route opened up for safety purposes. It is an accident waiting to happen. The bridge is stable – it’s the approaches which need repair. The budgets for our rural areas have been cut and the funds available do not cover these costs. Councillor Hendsbee spoke of federal funds and we will go from there.”

“As municipal councillor, I have little authority over NSTIR with respect to road maintenance except for some moral persuasion,” Hendsbee told The Journal in an email. “I went there to see firsthand the situation from a public safety perspective for our first response services, police and fire. The causeway portion of the roadway was being compromised from coastal erosion. I appreciate the response by NSTIR who built up a barrier to protect the roadbed.

“Any reopening of the bridge will require a bigger fix to make the road approaches to the bridge abutment wider and safer. It isn’t safe to cross with motor vehicles. We are hoping to find funding through some of the federal coastal adaptation to climate change.”

“The bridge was constructed by local men who, at that time, could do road work to pay off their taxes,” explained Snow. “Its approaches are as solid as when they were built. The approaches are built of arranged stone and capped with gravel. The deck span was rebuilt just prior to 2010. The railings of the bridge are the issue. Because the approaches are narrow – it is difficult to build a simple railing and leave enough roadway.”

Snow noted the issue with the bridge began when a DOT grader tore a rail off one winter – around the same time as the deck replacement. The wooden railing design used since the First World War – when the bridge was built – had worked just fine, according to Snow.

“That 4x6 piece of railing was replaced with a piece of 4x4 scabbed to the posts. The neglect started then. The wooden railing was kept painted and maintained all along until then. Some gravel would wash away in storms – not replaced. Locals offered to paint and maintain the railing but were told that it was a liability,” Snow said.

They said in the past the school bus had travelled the road and the turning spot provided (as the alternative to driving around the loop) was dangerous.

“It [turning spot] was on the water side and it kept eroding into the ocean. Lisa Snow allowed them to turn in their driveway,” said Gammon.

The residents on the west end now travel extra kilometres to leave the area by way of a causeway on the east end.

“When weather is bad you cannot leave the area as there is no alternative route and there are safety concerns of landing into the ocean. Emergency vehicles may not be able to respond,” Gammon said. “The road conditions affect other factors of rural life. Mail is not delivered if the road is not passable and residents cannot travel to their place of employment.

“My concern is around safety for the residents of Atkins Point Road. They would be completely isolated if the storm surges and high Atlantic Ocean waves prevented the residents from crossing the causeway since the bridge on the west side has been closed. Emergency vehicles would not be able to enter and the residents would not be able to leave,” she added.

Since the removal of the loop – brought on by the closure of the bridge – it forces travelers to use the eastern end of the former loop, which Snow pointed out causes rutting on the road faster “… although it does not get graded more often. It also forces only one evacuation route across the causeway which is quite exposed to the ocean storms. More than once per winter does the freezing spray coat the causeway making it treacherous. They have just installed a guard rail on the north side of the causeway to keep from sliding in the water.”