Heavy trucks will not be permitted on a portion of Drinkwater Road, between Ford Road and Highway 18, during the construction of the region’s new $48-million RCMP detachment, North Cowichan council decided at its meeting on Feb. 2.
The rural and scenic roadway was designated as closed to heavy truck traffic in 2010, but staff had recommended that the road portion be opened to heavy trucks working on the RCMP building temporarily during the construction phase to decrease travel routes and reduce costs.
A staff report indicated that the construction of the new RCMP building, which will be located on the municipality’s five-acre property bordering Ford Road and Drinkwater Road, includes using North Cowichan’s municipal Drinkwater gravel pit on North Road to stockpile soils removed from the construction site at Ford Road, and to use gravel extracted and crushed from the pit for filling and back filling during construction.
The most direct route between the pit and the work site in either direction is along Drinkwater Road, and would save approximately four kilometers each way, and save up to $20,000 in costs.
As a result, staff recommended council allow heavy trucks on the portion of Drinkwater Road that prohibits their use during construction.
But Mayor Al Siebring said he had heard from many people in the neighbourhood who made it clear that they don’t want heavy trucks on Drinkwater Road, even for a temporary period.
“To make an exception for ourselves just because we need it concerns me,” he said.
Coun. Tek Manhas agreed, saying that the savings of up to $20,000 is a small sum considering what the residents would have to go through during construction.
“The neighbours have safety and speed concerns in this area, particularly west of Somenos Road where Drinkwater narrows, and I concur with them,” Manhas said.
“We have a perfectly good corridor through Highway 18, and it has been built to handle these larger vehicles.”
But Coun. Kate Marsh said any disruption in the community due to heavy trucks would be temporary, and that the $20,000 the municipality would save would mean a lot to someone who has no money for food or a home.
“It’s bad optics not to allow heavy trucks there,” Marsh said.
“I don’t believe the trucks would be barrelling through the neighbourhood, and I’m sure staff would give them careful directions to follow the speed limit. I think we owe it to our taxpayers to save what we can, when we can. It would be different if no one else had to go through such disruptions, but just about everyone has if they have lived here long enough.”
Council decided not to allow the heavy trucks, while Marsh opposed the motion.
That means trucks will have to use the more conventional, and slightly longer, route to access the gravel pit, traveling via Highway 1, Highway 18, and North Road.