Persistent pothole problem leads man to grade road for free for past 5 years

A man living outside Shubenacadie, N.S., is thankful but frustrated that his neighbour must use his own time and equipment to repair a public road he says is routinely ignored by the province.

On Friday, Ryan Farris was near his home on North Salem Road when he spotted Frank Weir in his grader, fixing potholes as he has done for the past five years. 

"It gave me some joy to see him, but it also infuriated me because it's not the first time. It won't be the last time that he takes it upon himself to do this," said Farris.

Two-thirds of the road is paved, but the final four-kilometre stretch to a dead end is gravel. Farris has lived on the road for 15 years and said there are more residents who live along the gravel section than the paved part.

He said his neighbours could be at risk because if emergency vehicles needed to travel on the road, they wouldn't get anywhere quickly.

"You'd be crazy to try and drive a normal speed across it," said Farris. "It's not safe passage, that's for sure." 

Road is 'getting less attention'

Farris said the potholes worsen during the winter thaw, like many roads in the province. However, conditions deteriorate as traffic picks up to the nearby Atlantic Motorsport Park.

Frank Weir said it's easier for him to fix the road himself because he owns a grader through his construction and logging company.

"It seems to be getting worse. The road's getting less attention," he said. 

"The potholes were so deep [on Friday] that the front wheel of the grader, when it hit a pothole, the grader dropped so far the blade would go down and almost take a gouge out [of the road]."

2-hour job

Weir said he grades about two kilometres of the gravel stretch. It takes him about two hours, for which he'd charge about $160 to a client. Weir said he doesn't have any other option.

"It's ridiculous in this day and age to have to get a lot of people to call just to persuade them to come grade the road, almost like they're doing you a favour or something," he said.

Weir said he's told Transportation Department officials he's grading the road himself and has never been told not to.

The department didn't respond to CBC's request for information over the weekend.

In response to a similar case in Digby County, a department spokesperson said crews will work on bad roads as the weather allows.

North Salem Road is not listed as one of the roads to be improved in the department's five-year improvement plan.

'You feel pretty helpless'

Both men say the gravel section gets less attention from plows in winter. The paved section gets plowed hours before the gravel section, they said.

Gerrit Damsteegt owns Boundary Lane Farms Limited on North Salem Road. He said he's had to plow the road in the past, but admits this year was much better. He said his business has never been affected by a supply truck's ability to manoeuvre the potholes in any season. 

Farris said he's tired of having to make calls to officials about the road, which has cost him dented rims, flat tires and suspension damage.

"I'm in no way trying to differentiate this from any other road," he said. "I'm sure there's some that are worse and tons that are better. But it's just the frustration — you feel pretty helpless."