No fix till spring for rough town road

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Twenty claims for damages already

Morinville residents will have to wait until next spring before the province fixes a botched repair job that has turned the town’s main road into a gravelly mess.

Town residents have been seething for months now over the condition of Highway 642, which is the town’s main east-west road.

Back on Aug. 24, Alberta Transportation spent about a week spraying sealant and rock chips onto the road between Highway 28 and the Morinville railway tracks. Residents and town officials weren’t told of this beforehand, leading to much irritation as the road became littered with barricades and what seemed to be several truckloads of loose gravel.

That gravel was supposed to be squished into the road surface using rollers and a sealant – but the sealant didn’t work and much of that gravel came loose. The result has been clouds of dust, showers of rock chips and a noisy, rumbling ride more suited to a back-country road than a downtown.

“It’s like a cobblestone road,” said Morinville resident Jody Fudge, who drives the road every day, and it’s no better than it was before the province “fixed” it.

“The potholes are still there, and now we have all this debris on the sides of the roads.”

Fudge said residents are upset because the rocks make the road look unkempt and dirty. Many have complained that the rocks had taken chips out of their windshields.

Town council isn’t happy either and last week issued a press release on the “ongoing deplorable condition of the road, and the extreme negative impact the continued condition is having on community pride and morale.”

“The road is in absolutely terrible condition,” said Mayor Barry Turner, and it’s having a huge negative impact on how residents see the town. Many joke nowadays that the highway has gone back to a gravel road standard.

“It’s unacceptable.”

Turner said the town has met and spoken with Alberta Transportation about 20 times since this problem started and has also reached out to local MLAs and Transportation Minister Brian Mason. The press release specifically asked residents to direct all complaints about the road to MLA Glenn van Dijken or Mason.

“It’s their road, and they’re responsible for it,” Turner said.

“We don’t have any jurisdiction over that road.”

Province says no fix soon

Sweeper trucks have scoured the road about three times since September, but the rocks keep coming back.

In an email, Alberta Transportation spokesperson Lauren Arscott said the province was very aware of the troubles in Morinville and was working with the town to solve it.

“Earlier this year, our contractor undertook a chip-sealing treatment to extend the life of the pavement,” she said.

“The (sealant) material used did not perform as expected, and as a result the rock chips did not remain embedded in the asphalt surface.”

Arscott said the province has had similar problems with this product before, but not on this scale. The problem appeared to be caused by the product, not the contractor, and was under warranty. So far, about 20 people have filed claims for vehicle damage that may be related to this project.

It’s not feasible to fix the road during the winter, Arscott said. Instead, contractors would continue to sweep the road and work to fix it next spring.

Fudge said she hoped the province would help clean up this mess.

“We’re a beautiful little town and we have high standards for ourselves.”

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.