© Submitted photo
A section of dirt road running between Dunville and Southeast Placentia has become a major detour for heavy trucks hoping to reach the Placentia town centre.
The only road into Placentia currently open to heavy vehicles, without a major detour, was churned into a soupy quagmire over the weekend and was closed for several hours.
The dirt road leading between Dunville and Southeast Placentia was so bad at one point some trucks got stuck and had to be hauled out by machinery.
The situation is intolerable, said an exasperated Placentia Mayor Bill Hogan.
"The concern is that we have a secondary highway that we've been bellyaching about for decades - 30 years - and hasn't been kept up. ... It was going through superficial patching all these years and now that the heavy traffic has been directed to it ... trucks are sinking down in it," said Hogan.
The overlapping issue here is the emergency repairs being done to the Sir Ambrose Shea Bridge - the only thoroughfare between Placentia proper and Jerseyside.
Almost two weeks ago, the province imposed a 13,000-kilogram weight restriction on the aging bridge. A structural inspection had revealed a potential weakness so emergency measures were put in place to protect it from degrading.
Transportation Minister Tom Hedderson announced the next day the province would spend $1 million on emergency repairs, and predicted it would take about three months to finish the work.
The minister also said the province expects to have the old bridge replaced within the next four years.
But until the temporary repairs are done, heavy trucks, most carrying supplies for the town's businesses, have been forced to use the dirt road. The fact it had to be shut down, even for a few hours, is not a good sign, said Hogan.
The mayor is calling on the province to pave that section of road as soon as possible and resolve the issue once and for all.
"This is an emergency situation that government is not treating with the urgency that it should be treated with. Somebody's got to get on top of this," he said.
But Minister Hedderson said Monday that his department is on top of the issue.
In fact, it has earmarked $1 million for emergency repairs and upgrades to the road while work is ongoing on the bridge.
So is the hefty price tag worth it?
"It's absolutely necessary that we do this, because we're talking about running trucks over that to bring supplies into that particular community.
"So we think it's well worth our efforts. Three months can be a long time not to be able to get the traffic you need to supply your community," said Hedderson.
As for paving the road - that's not on the table at this point, he added.
"Using this road is a short-term inconvenience," said Hedderson. "So we can't turn around and look at paving it at a cost of $10 million. That's just not in the cards," he said.
Hogan also raised the issue of needing the dirt road again once construction starts on the new bridge, but Hedderson was quick to put down those concerns.
"We have no plans for shutting down that bridge.
"The new bridge will be constructed right next to that one, so there would be no time loss with detours," he said.
Hedderson reiterated work has already begun to repair the access road, and the project should ensure the ongoing supply of goods and services to the town of Placentia.