A new road surface on Isabella Point Road may not look different to drivers once completed, but the below-asphalt improvements will be significant and will help keep that section of road protected during future flood events.
“The real work is going to be underneath the pavement, where all the reinforcing has been done for the road base,” said Emcon South Island division operations manager Andrew Gaetz last week. “There’s quite a number of different engineering components going on there for water drainage.”
Gaetz said the process involves excavating the section of road two metres deep, then building the road base back up with an engineered geotextile, lifts and aggregate to firm support before the road surface is laid. The highly engineered road base technique is one that’s been used recently on several Gulf Islands, according to Gaetz, and has proven successful. It was also the method used on Walker’s Hook Road in 2018 after a large section there washed away.
Roland Road resident Daniel Dickmeyer, who lives above the construction area, said while the work is appreciated, the lack of communication on the project was concerning for residents who use the road daily.
“I just think an overall plan presented in public to the community, for a project this big, would be important,” said Dickmeyer, adding there had been no formal communication to residents about timeframes — or even why the road needed work.
Gaetz said the Isabella Point Road section has been under monitoring since the atmospheric river event this time last year, and that the physical work being done now is the culmination of almost a year’s worth of engineering and studies to provide a more robust — and safer — roadway.
“We saw a kind of a slow-moving slope failure,” said Gaetz, “where the side of the road was actually starting to drop, and the crew taking measurements noticed it starting to sag.”
Gaetz said the section of roadway is very tight for crews to work in, and the “geography and topography” was one of the bigger challenges, and made the work take longer than it might elsewhere. In addition, maintaining access for the many residents up the road has meant workers needed to keep access open for them.
“If we had an alternate route, we’d just close it, rip up the road, and lay everything in,” said Gaetz. “Instead, we’re working on one lane at a time.”
Dickmeyer said some notice of timeframe would’ve given comfort to residents — and would still be appreciated.
“We’re pretty laid back here on the island,” said Dickmeyer, “and you know, people are more like ‘Well, I hope they get it done in time for Christmas.’ People don’t like to complain. But we’re certainly curious. We don’t want to get in a situation where if we had an emergency, we couldn’t get to town in a hurry.”
Gaetz said while a specific date for completion was difficult to pinpoint, he anticipated crews would be finished by winter’s start.
“The process is pretty lengthy to do while keeping access open,” said Gaetz. “But we want to be finished and out of there before any kind of snow hits.”