Donkin coal trucks too big for Port Morien-area roads, residents say
Community members say they don't feel safe because trucks are too big, roads inadequate
Officials from Donkin mine, its trucking contractor and Nova Scotia's Transportation Department were on the hot seat Thursday night.
Residents of Port Morien are upset over trucks hauling coal through their community.
About 85 people attended a meeting at the Port Morien legion to ask about alternate plans to get coal from the mine near Glace Bay over to Sydney Harbour.
Many said they don't feel safe in their own community because the roads are inadequate and the trucks are too big.
Some residents, such as Leroy Peach, asked about a rail line.
"We don't have any quarrel with you, with your company," Peach said. "What we have a quarrel with is the whole idea of trucking."
Area residents said Highway 255 was built up to take coal truck traffic, but it is barely wide enough for two trucks. There are no sidewalks and the shoulders are narrow.
Some suggested temporary solutions, such as reduced speeds, wider roads and an alternate route.
Gerard Jessome, eastern district director for the Department of Transportation, told the crowd he heard their concerns and would take them up with the department.
However, he said Highway 255 won't be upgraded further until coal truck traffic increases.
In an interview after the meeting, Donkin vice-president Shannon Campbell said up to eight trucks a day haul coal from the mine to Sydney Harbour.
The trucks currently leave the mine gate and head south on Long Beach Road to Highway 255 in Port Morien. From there, they turn north towards Glace Bay.
Shifting the problem
Routing some trucks through the community of Donkin could alleviate concerns in Port Morien, Campbell said.
But the province has only authorized one route so far and going through Donkin might just shift the problem elsewhere, he said.
"It's not inconceivable that we could have further discussions with the province on that, but I don't want to be in the same conversation at the Donkin fire hall as we're having here in Port Morien, so we'll have to work through that," Campbell said.
Some people suggested routing empty trucks through Donkin and full ones through Port Morien.
Campbell said he's not sure if that would work because coal trucks aren't the only vehicles accessing the mine.
"Good question," he said. "What needs to be considered is that there still is a lot of delivery trucks that go through the Donkin highway, that choose to use the Donkin highway. So we'll have to take a look at what the actual truck count is.
"I don't want to make one change and then cause a bigger issue."
Campbell said the company is finalizing plans to build a road away from residential areas that would bypass Glace Bay altogether and join the highway near Sydney airport.
From there, the coal trucks could head straight into Sydney and reach the harbour via Sydney Port Access Road.
"Our plan is to build that road by the end of this year and get those trucks off that road," Campbell said.