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Efforts underway to repair N.B. roads damaged in flood
Spring flooding has taken a toll on many New Brunswick residents, especially those in the Sussex area and along the St. John River.
A cold hard winter and heavy rains have made a real mess of dozens of roads across the province. Some roads have been washed away by floodwaters while others are riddled with sinkholes.
“Right now we have approximately 75 roads that are closed across the province that’s been impacted by flooding since last week,” said New Brunswick Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Claude Williams.
Large sinkholes on Route 114 in Lower Coverdale have closed a section of the road to traffic, which caused problems for parent Kara Thomson on Tuesday.
“My son had a minor incident at home and needs to be taken to emergency for some help with that,” said Thomson.
Thomson has been leaving one vehicle on the Moncton side of the washout to avoid the 40-kilometre detour.
The affected section of Highway 114 collapsed last Wednesday and road crews remain on scene, using heavy equipment to fix the gaping holes in the asphalt.
No one can pass and residents are concerned about how the detour is affecting first responders.
“I’ve been speaking with local fire chiefs, Ambulance New Brunswick, the RCMP,” said Mike LeBlanc of the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization.
“Usually what happens when there is a detour, their mutual assistance agreements kick in. They will get the same service, police, fire and ambulance will be responding.”
In addition to inconvenience, safety is also an issue near the washouts; officials say curious onlookers have been wandering too close to the sinkholes.
“I understand that it’s an inconvenience for a lot of people to detour and I understand that they want to see what’s going on, but the road is closed for a very good reason as we can see and, personally, I wouldn’t be walking across that roadway,” said LeBlanc.
The New Brunswick Liberals understand the government has no control over floodwaters, but they are asking for an immediate response.
“This is something that we see every year, gets worse and worse and worse,” said Liberal transportation critic Bill Fraser. “The government needs to put a plan in place to deal with these catastrophes in a more timely manner.”
The Liberals are asking whether the flood repairs will be delayed, given the province’s ever-shrinking budget.
They also said poor maintenance may be to blame for the poor road conditions.
“We have a process in place now in the province, called the Asset Management System, and we heard the auditor general speak about that in the past and it needs to be followed,” said Fraser.
“There’s a $100 million shortfall in that Asset Management System and that needs to be invested as quickly as possible to bring these roads up to a standard and maybe it could withstand some of these storms.”
“We are making every effort to try and reopen those that we can, but we do have some roads with big circulation that are big priorities, so we need to address those in the first place,” said Williams.
The transportation minister doesn’t have an exact figure, but said the damage to the roads and infrastructure will run into the millions of dollars.
The province said public and private losses will be enough to trigger disaster relief assistance from Ottawa.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Jonathan MacInnis and Andy Campbell