Prince Edward County’s Newspaper of Record
June 20, 2024
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Royal Roads

County considers returning some roads to gravel
<p>Royal Road (Photo: Google Maps)</p>
Royal Road (Photo: Google Maps)

Never mind the distinct aroma of Dombind dust suppressant wafting through the vehicle vents, the trademark of a loose-surface cross road.

A historic experience could be back for local motorists. The municipality is considering returning some surface-treated roads to gravel this year, part of a pilot project to create smoother driving surfaces on some of the worst roads.

Under consideration are what are called surface-treated roadways. An asphalt emulsion is spread over a granular road, followed by the application of a cover aggregate. Some of the more travelled roadways are double-surface-treated in order to withstand higher traffic volumes.

The request to consider going back to gravel came from Councillors Nieman and Hirsch during the 2024 municipal budget deliberations. 

A pilot report on the project will also identify budget implications for 2025.

Through the last half of the previous century, cutting travel time here meant navigating washboard gravel goat paths at teeth-chattering speed.

The Candidates

There are several key candidates for gravel treatment this year. Traffic volume and type, number of driveways, and maintenance requirements were all considered in the assessment.

Roadways that could return to gravel until future reconstruction:

  • Salem Road (County Road 2 to Cunningham Road)
  • Weese Road (County Road 3 to Pulver Road)
  • Carnrike Road (Link Road to Lakeside Drive)

Roadways that could return to gravel permanently:

  • Carnrike Road (Salem Road to Link Road)
  • Wild Oak Lane (entire length)
  • Brewers Road (Royal Road to Hilltop Road)
  • Lighthall Road (County Road 24 to Royal Road)
  • Morgan Road (entire length)
  • Station Road (County Road 1 to end of surface treatment past Civic Address 654)
  • George’s Road (entire length)

A failed experiment

Last spring, the County received compensation through a settlement with WPD White Pines for road damage caused by the transfer of turbines and towers. The settlement allows for the reconstruction of Royal Road, most of Bond Road, and Kaiser Road – all former haul routes for the turbine project.

Councillor John Hirsch noted that during last year’s budget deliberations he was hearing loud and clear from constituents about the condition of Royal Road, which he likened to a “moonscape.” There was more cold patch repair than original surface-treatment.

Since the roadway was going to be pulverized as part of the planned 2024 reconstruction, local residents agreed about 2km where Royal was almost impassable could be a pilot for the return to gravel. 

The results? Due to weather, early positive returns were dashed by late fall. The gravel road was as bad as the original pockmarked surface-treated section by the following spring.

“Initially, residents were happy except for the inevitable dust, but that was helped with an application of calcium dust suppressant,” Councillor Hirsch said. “Through the summer the road remained in pretty good shape, certainly much better than before.”

As the weather changed, though, holes and ruts from heavy rain developed. 

The stretch of roadway was graded and repaired whenever possible. With a mild winter and a lack of frost in the ground, the road degenerated further. Councillor Hirsch noted that drainage ability and original road construction play important roles in the longevity of gravel roads, pointing to Babylon Road as a good example of a well-constructed gravel road.

“I drove Royal a couple of times and talked to residents who indicated they would be happy when the double-surface-treatment reconstruction is done this year,” he said. “It was a failed experiment as far as they were concerned.”

The County is asking for feedback on the gravel idea through the Have Your Say portal. Print forms are also available at Shire Hall and the libraries. The deadline to submit comments is Friday 7 June. Staff will incorporate this feedback into a report with recommendations for Council at the June 27 Committee of the Whole meeting. 

“What are the neighbours up to?”

Going back to loose gravel may seem a money-saving measure. But Quinte West looks at its 2004 decision to surface-treat 99 per cent of its remaining gravel roads as the real money saver. Roughly 164 kilometres of roadway were converted to surface treatment with a small exception for low-volume cul-de-sacs in that city. It spent $3.3 million, plus debenture costs, to convert gravel roads to surface-treated. It estimates the savings per year at $3,700 per km.

“The City has not considered converting roads back to gravel. Year-round maintenance of gravel roads is significantly more expensive,” a spokesperson said.

The City of Quinte West maintains about 1,600 km of roadway. The County of Prince Edward maintains 1,100 km of roads year-round. Seasonal roads, private lanes, and provincially owned highways such as 62 and parts of Loyalist Parkway (Highway 33) are not included in that tally.

This text is from the Volume 194 No. 23 edition of The Picton Gazette
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