County Council was reminded of the long road ahead with regards to rehabilitating County Road 49 during the last Committee of the Whole Meeting when they received deputations urging action sooner than later with regards to this issue.
Council also passed a motion to accept a report from staff regarding the County Road 49 Rehabilitation Strategy.
Aleska Kaye was first to speak regarding the need for rehabilitating Cty Rd 49. According to Kaye, the roadway is not only a main artery to the county, but also a dangerous embarrassment-the cost of which is only rising.
Kaye’s shock at the state of Cty Rd 49 began shortly after moving to the area three and a half years ago.
At the time of her arrival, Kaye stated the road topped the CAA Worst Roads List. Altogether, it’s been on that list seven years running now. Last year, it was number four out of all Ontario and number one in Eastern Ontario,.
“I became shocked by the state it’s in and, when I saw it, I just assumed soon something would be done but that was naive,” said Kaye. “Then, in 2019, I contacted Councillor Bill Roberts and he filled me in on this situation. It was a little like Pandora’s box opening-I hadn’t realized this was a dilemma from the 1990’s, since the road was downloaded from the provincial government.”
Kaye stressed that, regrettably, the road is about 15 years past its due date, with concrete roads only having a 40 year shelf life, on average.
Furthermore, Kaye argued that as a main tourist artery to the county, Cty Rd 49 presents a poor public image.
“There are about 4,000 or more tourists that use it (Cty Rd 49) annually as an access point to the county,” she said. “It’s a gateway, so it’s the first thing people see when they enter. Because we have an international reputation, it does not meet tourist expectations. But, its not just about tourists. Its about people here as well.”
She also cited a Facebook poll she had recently conducted, in which 85 per cent of 162 people responded that the rehabilitation of County Road 49 was a top priority.
Apart from her own beliefs and research, Kaye presented a number of testimonials from residents and visitors who believe the rehabilitation of this roadway should be a priority.
All things considered, she proposed a multi-governmental approach to the rehabilitation project..
“Essentially, I propose that the timing is right and we can combine it with finishing the Skyway Bridge and splitting the funding within three tiers of government,” stated Kaye. “MP Neil Ellis has confirmed the feds will approve funding, assuming the province does, so we need to basically put up a formal proposal to the province.”
Kaye also stated that MPP Todd Smith had indicated, should the rehabilitation project be broken into segments, it was likely to be approved by the provincial government.
Former Sophiasburgh Councillor Kevin Gale spoke in support of Kaye’s deputation, urging council to act sooner than later.
“As a four year old, I walked on 49 for our church walk-a-thon. It was gravel back then and I daresay it was in better shape than it is today,” commented Gale.
Gale also described the rehabilitation project as an opportunity to appeal to the provincial government, who he described as “looking for votes.”
“I fear as much for the public works staff there filling pot holes as much as I do the drivers-they’re literally there once or twice a week. This is not just an artery for tourists,” Gale decried.
The deputations were received with only Mayor Steve Ferguson commenting from the horseshoe.
Ferguson explained this past January he and a delegation from Shire Hall had attended the ROMA conference where they met with Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney and requested another meeting with her specifically to discuss the rehabilitation of Cty Rd 49.
“Just to provide a bit of an update to the ROMA Conference. In January, Councillors Roberts and Mike Harper, along with CAO Marcia Wallace and I met with Minister Mulroney. Those delegations generally last 15 minutes and don’t accomplish much…we requested a more specific meeting with her either at Queen’s Park or here in the county to discuss, specifically, the problems with Cty Rd 49. That meeting is being arranged as we speak,” assured Ferguson, adding, “We’re going to keep chipping away at this on a more direct basis with the provincial government.”
The report in question, hailing from the Development Services Department, recommended the issuance of a Request for Proposal (RFP) for Consulting Engineering Services to complete requisite surveys, detailed design and a construction phasing plan for the rehabilitation project.
The report also provided options for rehabilitation influenced by consultation with Lennox and Addington County who recently tendered for the construction of County Road 4, which, like Cty Rd 49 is concrete cement road from the same era.
According to staff, the first step toward rehabilitation is to complete surveys (both topographic and verification) and detailed design for the entire road.
The County had hired Associated Engineering Ltd to provide consulting engineering services and in January 2019 they had determined two viable options for the rehabilitation project.
The first option is to rubblize and replace with Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA) pavement, bearing the estimated cost of $18.3 million.
The second option is to rubblize and replace with Portland Cement Concrete (PCC) pavement, bearing an estimated construction cost of $23.0 million.
Currently, the County crews are responsible for cold patching the road with 3 tonnes of cold patch per week. The approximate cost of this, including manpower, materials, equipment and vehicles is $2,921.42 or $151,914.36 annually.
The estimated cost for the consulting engineering services to complete the necessary surveys is between $300,000 and $400,000.
Staff recommended the entirety of the road be studied, which became a topic of debate around the horseshoe.
Whether or not the road is rehabilitated in sections, staff recommended the study be conducted along the entirety of the roadway so as to maintain consistency rather than switching between designers.
Councillor Maynard objected to the recommendation of creating a design when the two separate aforementioned options were both on the table.
“So, we are creating a design for two different options? I would prefer that if we’re going to concentrate on a phase that’s the worst, then that’s what we engineer for,” she said.
Peter Moyer, Director of the Development Services Department, replied that with every RFP and every design period comes a loss of time associated with that. He also noted that staff recommend a phased approach, initiating with an RFP, as construction can’t be completed this year anyway.
“It may not be an elected two or three kilometre chunk per phase of rehabilitation. For us, we’re recommending phase one since we can’t do construction this year anyway. Let’s spend time this year getting the design completed and then we are ready to tackle construction as the next phase, whether that’s a multi-phase project or not,” said Moyer.
CAO Marcia Wallace expressed concern that breaking the project into chunks could deter potential investors.
“If it had been regular funding, we would absolutely need the design. Because it’s not, what I’m worried about is, if somebody’s looking for an excuse not to fund it, that could become the excuse,” said Wallace.
Councillor Ernie Margetson expressed discomfort with the estimated amount for the consulting engineers design work.
“There’s a number of things that make me feel we don’t quite understand what we’re doing with the design and also the phasing, which you’ve said isn’t a study…I’m hesitant to commit to this amount,” stated Margetson.
Ferguson stressed the need for a design to situate the County in a better position when they ask the province for money to repair the road.
“At some point in the coming weeks, I hope, we’re going to go ‘hat in hand’ with the request that the province fund all or part of the rehabilitation of this road,” said Ferguson. “We’re in a better position to do this if we undertake the work. I don’t think we’re going to get away from having to do this at some point. If we want this road rehabilitated, we’re going to have to depend on upper levels of government.”