Rehabilitation of highway could end constant flooding on Hwy 537 near Wanup

After years of problems, the province is finally going to fix Highway 537 between Wanup and Wahnapitae. Residents who use the road complain of one particular section which is frequently closed due to Jumbo Creek flooding.

Information meeting planned for March 22 to provide public with roadwork plans

The Ministry of Transportation plans to rehabilitate a 1 kilometre section of Highway 537 between Wahnapitae and Wanup to prevent flooding from Jumbo Creek, as seen in this April 2016 picture. (Erik White/CBC)

Several times a year, Highway 537 between Wahnapitae and Wanup has to be closed to traffic because Jumbo Creek has flooded the roadway.

Last week residents who live in the area were sent notices from the Ministry of Transportation (MTO), about an information meeting planned for March 22.

The open house is meant to provide details about upcoming rehabilitation work proposed for the highway.

Sudbury city councillor Deb McIntosh represents Ward 9, where the highway is.

She says she's been lobbying the province to fix the road since she was elected to city council in 2015.

"I'm just happy that it's happening. I believe slow and steady wins the race and there are a lot of provincial highways throughout the entire north, or Ontario.

"I'm sure we're not the only [highway] that floods. [The ministry has] to set priorities. They have to decide what's most important," she says.

Highway 537 floods at several times during the year, not just in the spring.

McIntosh says that makes getting to a call difficult for emergency vehicles, particularly since the flooding can happen very quickly.

"Before [the MTO] close the road if you don't know that it's flooded and you get there, you have to turn around and go back."
Andy McClelland and his family have lived on Highway 537 for 13 years. He says the constant flooding of Jumbo Creek is frustrating because the road closure means a longer detour to get around. (Angela Gemmill/CBC)

Andy McClelland and his family have lived on Highway 537, just south of Jumbo Creek, for 13 years.

He says the constant road closures are a pain that they've put up with since they moved there.

"The sooner it gets fixed the better.  It's just been a frustration for those of us who live down there, particularly down Red Deer Lake Road south," McClelland says.

He explains that when the road is closed due to flooding, drivers either have to take a municipal gravel road detour or go around through the city which adds between 30 and 40 minutes of travel time.

McClelland says the deepest he has seen the water is 40 centimetres across the road.

Multi-million dollar project

"Anyone who lives in Sudbury will know that it's been closed two or more times a year,  as long as people can remember," says Gordan Rennie, the regional issues and media advisor for the MTO in northeastern Ontario.

Rennie calls it a multi-million dollar project and explains that construction crews will replace the culvert with two other culverts, as well as raise the grade of the highway for 500 metres.

The work is expected to take two years to complete.

Rennie says the soil in the area is challenging and the MTO expects everything to settle after the first year. So they'll need to return to apply more material.

"That is the best fix and we are confident that we'll be able to eliminate the seasonal flooding that has closed the highway."

Rennie says construction crews will close Highway 537 for up to 15 days in the summers of both 2018 and 2019.  Traffic would use a nearby municipal gravel road to detour around during the construction on the highway.

"The thing that we've heard from people the most is that they want it fixed and so that's what we've been focused on."

The information meeting is planned for March 22 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Wahnapitae Community Centre on Glenbower Crescent.

About the Author

Angela Gemmill

Journalist

Angela Gemmill is a CBC journalist who has covered news in Sudbury, Ont., for 13 years. Connect with her on Twitter @AngelaGemmill. Send story ideas to angela.gemmill@cbc.ca