New Brunswick

Miramichi business owners question future with bypass coming

Two restaurant owners in Miramichi, N.B., are worrying about the future of their businesses after learning a bypass will be built to divert high volumes of traffic from the area.

Fears of lost business, closure concerns restaurant owners

Don MacLellan is concerned what will happen to the restaurant he opened months ago after a new bypass diverts traffic from Route 11 in Miramichi. (Facebook)

Two restaurant owners in Miramichi, N.B., are worrying about the future of their businesses after learning a bypass will be built to divert high volumes of traffic from the area.

Wesley Cable, owner of the Portage Restaurant, said he is disappointed the concerns of the local businesses were not considered.

Wesley Cable, owner of the Portage Restaurant says his business depends on the high volume of traffic in the area. (Contributed/Portage Restaurant)
"There's some businesses that will be closed up entirely, there's some that will try to weather it like myself. You take away the traffic and it makes it really hard," he said. 

The provincial and federal governments announced $272 million would be spent on Route 11 in Miramichi and Shediac to help alleviate heavy traffic in those areas.

A controlled access 11-kilometre, two-lane bypass will be built between Glenwood and Miramichi with construction scheduled to begin in 2018 at a cost of $90 million.

From left: Miramichi-Grand Lake MP Pat Finnigan; Kent South MLA Benoît Bourque; Dominic LeBlanc, federal minister of fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard; Premier Brian Gallant; Kent North MLA Bertrand LeBlanc; and Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Bill Fraser take part in announcement for Route 11 January 13. (Government of New Brunswick)

Cable questions if the bypass is warranted along the 2.5-kilometre section where the majority of businesses are located. 

Other businesses at bypass exit

About a kilometre away, Don MacLellan wondered what will happen to his new restaurant, Capers Pub and Eatery. He opened on Route 11 in late August 2016 and had plans to move another business from its location in downtown Chatham.

MacLellan said if he had known the bypass was going in, he wouldn't have invested his life savings into opening the business and encouraged his son to move to the city from Ontario to work with him.

He said the writing could be on the wall for small businesses like his with bigger corporate businesses being located at the bypass exit.

"We have just basically sunk every nickle dime that we have had into opening these businesses and now we are faced with what?" he said. 

"All the small business up and down this highway 11 is going to either shut down or I don't know, starve for the rest of their lives."

'Not really gaining anything'

MacLellan said the bypass could be brought in at the South Napan Road but Fraser said the planned route is a done deal.

Cable said he and other business owners have tried to talk to the local MLA Bill Fraser, who is also the minister of transportation, but said they couldn't get anywhere with their ideas or concerns.

"The amount of money that is being spent to make a correction here, it's just too much for the taxpayers of New Brunswick. We're not really gaining anything in the process," Cable said. 

The bypass will address many of the safety concerns including the high number of accidents along that section, the transportation minister said. 

5 fatalities over 13 years

Daily traffic counts for the area average 8,000 vehicles. With 60 residential and commercial driveways, Fraser said there were problem areas.

Statistics show between 1999 and 2012, there were 275 collisions on that stretch of road with five fatalities. There have been 33 more collisions since that time.  

Fraser said he understands the business community's concerns but the safety concerns outweigh them. 

"I spoke to many of these business owners along that stretch as well over the past number of years," said Fraser, adding he is willing to meet with them again.

3 overpasses planned

The bypass will begin at the North Black River Road and continue to an interchange at King Street and Maher Street, shortly before the Centennial Bridge.

Three overpasses will be built over three roads along the route as well as a bridge over the Napan River. Moose fencing will also be placed in some areas along the new route.