PUSLINCH – The sudden closure of the Paddock Bridge last May is wreaking havoc on Puslinch roads, causing council here to worry the township won’t be properly compensated by Wellington County.
Structural deterioration of the bridge, on Wellington Road 35 south of Highway 401, was discovered in May and the bridge was closed.
The county anticipates demolition and construction of a new bridge will be completed sometime this summer.
And while the official detour route recommends using Concessions 1, 2 and 7 – all paved, Puslinch township roads – what’s actually happening is that drivers are taking Sideroad 10, 20 or 25 as their alternate routes.
The sideroads also belong to Puslinch and are not paved, “and that is taking a lot of our resources,” director of public works, parks and facilities Mike Fowler told council on Feb. 7.
Fowler estimates about 2,000 cars are travelling those roads each day during this detour, which is eating staff time and gobbling resources needed to maintain all of the township’s gravel roads.
Fowler said staff inspects those three sideroads daily to ensure they are safe, and when 60% of a road has potholes or when there are some really large holes, that’s when the graders come out.
The same benchmarks apply to all gravel roads in the township but all roads are not inspected daily.
In terms of winter maintenance, Fowler said salt is not great for gravel roads because it causes snow and ice to melt rapidly. It’s great on asphalt, he said, but it causes weak and mushy spots in gravel and creates potholes.
The County of Wellington supplies Puslinch with a sand/salt mixture, but the township also needs straight sand to treat its gravel roads, which the county does not offer.
Fowler said he’s been in discussion with a supplier, who can provide sand and a protective fabric dome at its location for the township to use.
He could not estimate how much sand the township might need or what the cost would be, “but I’m confident it could be absorbed into the budget,” he said.
Fowler said the county is reimbursing the township for maintenance of the detour roads based on labour hours, fuel and machine time.
But as time wears on, the gravel roads that have become the unofficial detour route are deteriorating.
“Those six-and-a-half kilometres of road have been severely damaged, and I believe the sub-base has been compromised,” Fowler said.
“We will need some tough discussions with the county. In my opinion (the gravel roads) are irreparably damaged.”
Fowler took the opportunity to explain that gravel roads need certain weather conditions to be graded. It can’t be too wet, too snowy, and not when the frost is coming out of the ground, he said.
“If you work when it’s wet, the road turns to soup,” he added.
Mayor James Seeley brought up the matter of gravel roads during the Feb. 7 council meeting under “new business” as he’s received some complaints.
“The accusation I’m hearing is that we are not doing anything about our gravel roads,” Seeley said.
Interim CAO Courtenay Hoytfox told council township staff will likely meet with county staff once the Paddock Bridge reopens and do a site inspection of the roads in Puslinch affected by the detour.
The outcome of the inspection could lead to further discussion about rebuilding and/or paving the impacted gravel roads, and who should pay for it.
In terms of snow removal, Hoytfox added residents can check the township website to learn when a road can be expected to be plowed after a snow event.
Visit puslinch.ca, go to the “for residents” tab and then “local roads and sidewalks.”