Newly rebuilt Danforth Road is falling apart
A recently reconstructed road in Hillier is getting a lot of unwelcome attention, just weeks after being rebuilt, paved, and having lines painted on it. A major portion of Danforth Road was reconstructed this past summer and fall at a cost of $1.5 million. But there will be no ribbons or ceremonies marking this achievement.
That is because there are plenty of indications that the brand new roadway is already falling apart.
Dozens of patches have already appeared on the new pavement, and the road edges appear to be crumbling, with as many as 50 eroding ‘saw cuts’ carving into the roadway.
The troubles are not centred in one area of the road, but cover its entire length. There are also issues with the shoulders of the road, which drop off quite sharply, leaving no room to pull over to the side. The County acknowledges some of the problems— issuing an order last week limiting trucks to half loads for fear of further deteriorating the roadway.
Several Danforth Road residents expressed anger and frustration over the current condition of the road, with one resident saying that it was “unbelievable that a road could be put down this poorly”. Though none were prepared to provide their names, residents, farmers and businesses have waited many years for the road to be restored to a proper and safe condition. They were thrilled when the project finally broke ground earlier in the summer, and pleased it was done before winter.
Now that joy has turned into dismay, as the roadway began falling apart seemingly days after the paving crew packed up and went home. . Farms, wineries, private houses and small businesses are dotted along Danforth Road, each with their own need to have the road open and driveable every day of the year. So when the newly paved road immediately began falling apart and breaking up in multiple areas, it was inevitable that residents would start to take notice and some hard questions would be pointed at Shire Hall.
The County’s works chief, Robert McAuley, says a wet fall and a saturated road base led to a tough decision late in the fall—either pave, knowing it would need repairs in the spring, or leave it unpaved, risking a sticky, mucky track all winter long. McAuley chose the former.
He agrees that the optics aren’t great, but he is confident the right choice was made.
“The best conditions for paving are hot, dry days, and a hot, dry ground,” McAuley told The Times. “The high waters and record flooding in the County at the beginning of the season meant that the ground was still saturated at the end of the summer, leaving us with a situation that was not ideal for paving. The only other option was to leave the road as is. The decision was made that it would be better for residents to drive on a new road with patches than the muck hole that Danforth Road usually becomes in the wintertime.”
The County also announced last week that another construction project— $800,000 to fix a section of County Road 12 between Sandbanks Provincial Park’s Dunes Beach to the intersection with Lakeshore Lodge Road—was not finished before winter conditions put halt to the work. The County says this stretch of County Road 12 will be closed until work can resume in the spring.
Some have begun to question the County’s ability to manage road projects, or whether it is just unlucky. They point to a surface treatment project on Massassauga Road that went badly wrong in 2014. The tar and stone material was applied much too late in the season, and the County was unable to properly inspect the work according to McAuley in his report to council in October that year. After the paving was completed, it immediately began to disintegrate, and a great deal of the work had to be redone the following year.
Others complain that portions of County Road 1 between Palmer Burris Road and Consecon were rebuilt without adequate shoulders. They say this makes this high volume, high speed roadway a potential hazard to motorists who may be unaware of this deficiency.
McAuley says the County presents unique road construction challenges—aside from the sheer volume of poor roads.
“Our rocky soil, irregular coastline and aging road system will be a challenge in the future,” said McAuley. “The argument has been made for a lot of County roads to return to gravel. If we can’t afford to maintain them, what other choice will we have?”
While residents of Danforth are mystified by the work done on their road, folks on Closson can only look on their neighbours’ plight with envy. Wheel-twisting ruts and minefields of potholes lie in wait to test the suspension of every passing vehicle on this popular and commercially vital road. While Closson Road has long been on the County’s radar, the $2.5 million price tag means it is repeatedly punted to some imagined future—when the County is flush with cash.
Businesses and private home owners alike say enough is enough.
McAuley says that plans could be in the works for a temporary fix that will last a few years and buy the County some time, but adds that there are currently no funds available for a full reconstruction of Closson Road.
In 2014, the accounting firm, KPMG tallied the roads rated at 4 or less—that is the roads in the most urgent need of reconstruction—at $170 million. The County currently only spends about $7 million each year on roads. Paved roads only last 25 years or so. This means the County can’t repair its roads fast enough to slow down the steady decline.
It is an intractable problem this community seems destined to pass along to future generations in the County. Or teach them to get used to bad roads.
But none of this explains why a road built just weeks ago is falling apart. The question raised by Danforth Road is: How well are we spending our scant roads dollars?