BY LINDSAY BRISCOE
The replacement of eight culverts along Highway 105 over the course of this summer left rough gravel patches behind for much of the season, but to the satisfaction of several locals who expressed their gratitude on social media, the paving of all eight gravel patches was completed early last week.
For Micheal Desforges, an employee of Chukuni Sanitation who travels a heavy straight truck up and down Highway 105 six days a week, the paving means a much smoother, safer, and more efficient drive.
“They are fixed nicely. It’s a decent repair,” he says. “Smooth transition on and off the fixed patches. I don’t have to slow down at all.”
“Before the dig ups were fixed it was pretty awful on the highway,” he explains. “Driving heavy rigs and having to slow down for each one meant losing my speed that could take up to five minutes to build back up to the speed limit depending on the proceeding incline. I found on average the 105 from Vermillion to Red took almost a half hour longer before.”
Desforges says he’s glad the paving was done before winter especially for safety reasons, but he still questions how many passenger vehicles “blew shocks or struts” as they passed over the gravel patches.
Those are two of the main reasons Kenora-Rainy River MPP Sarah Campbell had been pushing the MTO to see that the paving got done. In a follow-up to a conversation she had with transportation minister Steven Del Duca recently, Campbell took the opportunity during the Oct. 27 question period in the legislature to ask the minister when exactly the gravel patches along Highway 105 would be paved.
“Mr. Speaker, Highway 105 is the only highway serving the communities of Ear Falls and Red Lake in my riding. This past summer the Ministry of Transportation replaced every culvert along the route, but instead of paving over the cut sections, they left gravel. Because the ministry did not replace adequate warning signage, these gravel sections often catch people off guard. Drivers can often lose control and some vehicles have been damaged. Winter is coming and these risky gravel sections need to be properly maintained and repaired. The ministry and the private contactor can’t seem to agree on who is in charge of paving these sections. Each time the ministry gave me a repair date, the date came and went and nothing happened…will the minister tell us for certain when Highway 105 will be completed?”
“I appreciate receiving that question from the member opposite,” said Del Duca. “I know we had a chance to exchange correspondence last week here in this legislature. I also know that staff in my office have been in touch with that member’s constituency office. I certainly understand and respect where she’s coming from and I know that she’s doing a job to represent her community. I know my office will continue to work closely with her office and her community to make sure that this can be addressed,” replied Del Duca.
He did not provide a date for when the paving would take place.
It was later revealed through an e-mail correspondence with MTO spokesperson Annemarie Piscopo that the paving of the eight gravel patches along Highway 105 had been sub-contracted out by Transfield Services to Pioneer Construction. The work began on Oct. 25—two days before Campbell and Del Duca’s exchange during question period at Queen’s Park—and was completed on Oct. 28. Piscopo said the paving was routine work, part of the ministry’s annual maintenance program.
The Northern Sun News requested an interview with Campbell but did not hear back by the time of press.