Nova Scotia

Businesses near Middle River still impacted by Cabot Trail washout

Nova Scotia's Public Works Department has patched the detour on West Side Middle River Road, but the bumpy ride is still damaging vehicles and driving away motorcyclists.

Province has patched detour road, but bumpy ride still damaging vehicles, driving away motorcyclists

Nova Scotia Public Works has patched parts of the West Side Middle River Road this spring, but the detour is still crumbling in places, affecting motorists and businesses that support them. (Matthew Moore/CBC)

It has been one up and one down for two businesses in Middle River, N.S., after a fall storm washed out a bridge on Cape Breton's famous Cabot Trail.

Kevin Simpson's TireCraft service station is on West Side Middle River Road, which is paved, but has crumbled under the weight of heavy traffic.

That's because it has been used as a detour ever since the Gold Brook bridge on the Cabot Trail washed out in November.

Area roads were never in great shape to begin with, but they have worsened. Business is booming, Simpson said.

"Lots of flat tires and bent rims, suspension parts wore out before they're supposed to be wore out," he said during a brief break while a steady stream of vehicles rolled in and out of the shop. "Just a lot of heavy wear and tear on the rigs, the roads are so rough."

Jim MacKenzie runs MacKenzie Motorsports, a motorcycle repair shop on the Cabot Trail in Middle River, on a portion of the road that is open only to local traffic.

Jim MacKenzie says business is down about 60 per cent at his motorcycle repair shop on the Cabot Trail in Middle River because riders are avoiding the detour route. (Matthew Moore/CBC)

He said riders have mostly avoided the area since the washout, because the detour is not safe.

"My big area is Margaree, Chéticamp [and] Inverness and they've started to detour down the Lake Ainslie side, so I've missed that amount of customer base that normally would come through here," MacKenzie said.

The road had been cratered over the winter and the province has patched the detour in places, but MacKenzie said bikers are still going elsewhere.

"They tend not to ride on roads like that," he said.

"They will find a smoother route, because if you break a wheel on your car, well, it's an inconvenience, but if you break a wheel on a motorcycle, it injures you pretty good."

MacKenzie said his business is down about 60 per cent and it doesn't look like it will pick up this summer.

"I've been here for 33 years and if I didn't have that longevity, it would be pretty difficult to keep flipping the open sign," he said.

Kevin Simpson says business has been booming at his service station on the West Side Middle River Road, but he'd like to see area roads repaired sooner rather than later. (Matthew Moore/CBC)

MacKenzie and Simpson said tourism along that stretch of the Cabot Trail is likely to be down this summer because of the roads.

Even though business has picked up at Simpson's service station, he would rather see the roads repaired as soon as possible.

Nova Scotia Public Works says the West Side Middle River Road is expected to be fully repaired by August.

A temporary bridge on the Cabot Trail should be open to traffic by the end of that month and a new, permanent bridge is expected to be built in two to three years.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 36 years. He has spent half of them covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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