No money for threatened Saint John road, council report says

City of Saint John engineering staff say it will cost $4 million to reroute the west side's Sand Cove Road, which is in danger of collapse.

Rerouting Sand Cove Road would cost 70% of city's total street budget

A permanent one-kilometre detour of Sand Cove Road would have to be built around Cedar Hill-Greenwood Cemetery, in lower right, to give access to homes and the popular Irving Nature Park in event of further slope failure near McLarens Beach. (City of Saint John)

City of Saint John engineering staff say it will cost $4 million to reroute a west Saint John road that is in danger of collapse.

A staff report to council says the expense makes it unlikely Sand Cove Road can be relocated without "significant" help from the federal and provincial governments.

Although the road itself has not collapsed, land below the road in the area of McLarens Beach has.

The staff document arrives shortly after Saint John Mayor Don Darling said the city is in "serious financial" difficulty.

"The road relocation option would represent approximately 70% of the total spending on all roads and streets in the city," said Mike Hugenholtz, the city's commissioner of transportation.

In the report, he suggests the $700,000 already budgeted for preparation work be redirected toward other projects.

Sliding toward bay

Sand Cove Road was shown to be in danger early in 2015, when the slope adjacent to it, weakened by snow melt, began to slide toward the nearby Bay of Fundy.

Several homes were damaged in the process.

City workers reduced the road to a single lane, allowing one direction at a time, as a precaution that remains in effect today.

A conceptual drawing included with the council report shows about a kilometre of new road would have to be constructed to reroute Sand Cove to the north of nearby Cedar Hill/Greenwood cemetery.

Resident want berm

The document recommends against construction of a berm below the high tide area on the shore of nearby McLarens Beach, an option favoured by many local residents.

Consulting engineers estimate that option would cost $8.7 million with "no guarantee" it would prevent further collapse of the slope over the long term.

That's disappointing to longtime resident Mort McAllister, whose home was shifted by the slope failure.

"The city's just going to abandon us apparently," McAllister said. "I don't know where we're going to end up, whether we just ... sit here and slide into the bay. We can't sell our houses. We can't do anything."

The city has already budgeted $700,000 for design work and property acquisition to reroute the road.

Homeowner wants buyout

McAllister suggests that money be used to buy out the homeowners. He believes the city would then have more options to build up support for the road in its current location.

The issue is further complicated by the lack of an alternate route to dozens of homes, the cemetery, and the popular Irving Nature Park.

West side Coun. Blake Armstrong was not impressed by the report.

He believes a solution can be found to support the slope for far less than $8.7 million.

"Building the road around does not fix the problem," Armstront said. "It makes a road but it doesn't fix the problem for the residents. I feel so bad for those people that are down there."

Council will consider the matter Tuesday night.

About the Author

Connell Smith

Reporter

Connell Smith is a reporter with CBC in Saint John. He can be reached at 632-7726 Connell.smith@cbc.ca