A group of rural residents are banding together to find ways to fix the bumpy Baldonnel Road.
Between 30 to 40 people turned out to a public meeting at Baldonnel Elementary Nov. 26 to talk about the road hazards created by an influx of heavy truck traffic in the area.
Baldonnel Road resident Karin Carlson said the problem started this summer, shortly after a gravel pit operated by Chapman Sand and Gravel opened for business in the area. Carlson believes it’s been a big contributor to the unsafe state of the road.
“The roads are old, and they weren’t built for that type of traffic,” said Carlson, who organized the public meeting with another local resident, Brenda Lesley.
“What’s happened is the maintenance hasn’t kept up with the needs of the road, and it’s starting to deteriorate fast.”
Baldonnel Road is paved for about 10 kilometres, but beyond that it’s dirt. About 60 residents live off of the road, Carlson said.
Some of residents’ primary concerns are potholes, soft spots and areas where the dirt road is rippled like a washboard.
“During the summertime... it was really dusty and dangerous,” Carlson said. “It’s difficult to see oncoming traffic, but that also means it’s difficult to see if there’s wildlife or livestock or kids or pedestrians on the side of the road.”
The washboard conditions that develop on the road “can become very dangerous,” Carlson added.
“When you’re going over that, it’s almost like hydroplaning, I would say, but it’s on dirt.”
Carlson, however, doesn’t fault the owners of the gravel pit, nor the hauling company.
“He has a right to do business like anybody else,” Carlson said.
“Most of the people down there are farmers, and maybe supplement their income through the oil and gas industry by providing trucking services.”
The issue, rather, is that the dirt road wasn’t built for heavy truck traffic. Residents want the Ministry of Transportation to step up and make sure the roads are built to handle it, and provide the necessary maintenance.
Those who attended the meeting broke into groups to identify issues on the road, and categorized possible solutions into regular and ongoing maintenance, remedies that could be completed in under three years, and long-term fixes that will require a larger financial investment.
The residents will be submitting their recommendations to the Ministry of Transportation, as well as local leaders and politicians.
“We’re not just complaining, we wanted to have some kind of proactive recommendations,” Carlson said.
One possible solution is covering the road with magnesium chloride more regularly to control dust, and to cover the road entirely, instead of on turns and in front of driveways as is currently done.
The residents plan to organize another meeting in the future and invite all groups, including the Ministry of Transportation, to discuss how their recommendations might be implemented.
Peace River Regional District CAO Chris Cvik said road maintenance of rural roads outside of municipalities is a provincial responsibility. The district has heard from residents, and directed them to the ministry, Cvik said.
Officials with the ministry did not immediately return calls for comment.