Community slams $2M snowmobile crossing plan, wants 'atrocious' road fixed instead

Some residents of a rural Cape Breton community are decrying the province's plan to build an overpass for snowmobilers and four-wheelers in nearby Baddeck instead of fixing their "atrocious" road.

The provincial government announced this week it will build an overpass above Highway 105 at Baddeck and a tunnel in Oxford that runs under the connector road off Highway 104. The structures will cost the province a total of $2 million. The Trans Canada Trail Association is chipping in $535,000 for the Oxford tunnel.

"I thought the $2 million could probably go to road repair," said Elyane Saul, who lives on West Side Middle River Road in Middle River, about 15 minutes from Baddeck. "Making the roads safer trumps the snowmobile overpass".

West Side Middle River Road was paved in 1981 and has only been patched since, according to area residents. Saul said it is dangerous because drivers have to cross the centre line to avoid potholes and frost heaves.

"I hit a double mogul and cracked my oil pan," said Saul.

In a release announcing the overpass, Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan said road safety is a priority and the department had worked with ATV and snowmobile associations to come up with highway crossings.

MacLellan also said the overpass would help the local economy, by providing safe passage over the Trans Canada Highway into the Village of Baddeck.

MacLellan said in an interview his department is working on solutions for the road.

"I do appreciate the frustrations, particularly this time of year, as the frost comes out of the ground and we see the potholes and the deterioration," he said in an interview.

But he said the road is 18 kilometres long and too expensive to repave. He promised there will be "maintenance paving" done this year.

Road 'atrocious'

Bruce MacDonald has an accounting business on West Side Middle River Road. He said he doesn't begrudge the snowmobilers getting the overpass but basic needs are not being met

He said the road is "atrocious" and it is hurting his business. "The courier refused to come up here any more, so that really puts me at a disadvantage compared to other accounting firms that I'm sure can get that service."

MacDonald said the road's condition is causing car damage. "The front end of my vehicle is in rough shape now, and my wife broke one of the big springs on the front of her car."

There are more than 800 signatures on a petition circulated in the community demanding the road be repaved.