The Department of Transportation (DoT) was in council on Feb. 18, defending their plans for the highway by-pass of Port Joli and Port Mouton.
The proposed bypass of Port Mouton and Port Joli is still going ahead as planned, according to the Department of Transportation.
The by-pass has come under fire from the community over the past year, because of the way the entrances to the communities is being shaped.
In 2010, DoT presented a concept design that included entrances on both ends of Port Joli and Port Mouton for the highway. This was before any survey work and land acquisition had been done.
Justing Tanner, a highway design engineer, says since then they have had to make changes based on what they found.
The main reason the route is being cut off at the Shelburne County end is over environmental issues. There is a wetland in the area said Tanner, and adding an interchange would encroach too much.
It also meant there would be two exits under two kilometres from each other, when the highway guidelines state the minimum is three to eight kilometres apart.
Another problem comes down to cost. To create an at-grade intersection, similar to Exit 18, also needs a one-kilometre stretch in either direction for acceleration and deceleration. Douglas Brook is nearby and requires a bridge, and Tanner says it would have significantly increased the cost to make the bridge three lanes. The bridge is also almost finished construction.
Tanner says eventually a bypass will start in Shelburne County that bypasses the Granite Village area. The road being cut off in Port Joli will reconnect to Route 3 from there. This is planned, but there is no budget or timeline in place.
On the Port Mouton side, the entrance was moved to the middle of the community because there were traffic issues with making the exit at one end.
The community raised several concerns over the planned route, primarily over the solitary entrance into the Port Joli and the entrance to Port Mouton.
- the time increase for EHS and school bussing
- one route into Port Joli, forcing most traffic to continue on the bad curves
- the hill towards the end, and concerns over plowing
- harder to access provincial and federal parks in the area because of backtracking
- no loop through the communities, making it difficult to get traffic off the main highway to local businesses.
Though they recognize people have concerns, the DoT says the route was deemed the best possible with the funding they had said Tanner. On the afternoon after council the presenters were meeting with some members of the community to explain the plan.
Tanner says the ideal solution would have been to put a full bypass in all at once, with full exits and parallel to Highway 3, however funding wasn't there to do it.
The highway bypass is split into three parts. By Port Joli the bypass will start around the Queens County line and finish just past Robertson’s Lake. The Port Mouton bypass starts at Broad River and goes to just beyond the community's border. The last section connects the two pieces.
The Port Joli bypass is slated to open in the Fall of 2014, while the Port Mouton bypass is set to open in the Fall of 2015. The last section has no timeline.
The cost of the first two parts is around $47 million.