QUESNEL — Seventeen kilometres south of Quesnel on West Fraser Road, motorists run up against a barricade. That's because five sections along three kilometres of that road were washed out this spring when Narcosli Creek flooded. It has stranded 250 people on the south side of the washout. They have a detour, but it is gravel and adds significant time to the commute. Teresa Smith is a Director with the Buckridge Community Association. She says some families are opted to add to their commute, but on blacktop, as they head an hour south on Highway 97 to Williams Lake. Smith also has a business in Quesnel and, for her, that's concerning.
"I realize, in talking to our community, the dollars that Quesnel is losing. We have families going to Williams Lake to shop for their groceries. Now they're moving their banking, their doctors there."
The Board for School District 28 is also weighing in with their concerns.
"We have approximately 20 students in Grades K to 12 that are registered to ride the bus," says Gloria Jackson, Trustee for School District 28. "The first student now gets on [the bus] at 6:20 and doesn't arrive at their destination until about two hours later. Those students as well don't get home until approximately five o'clock at night."
The Ministry has told residents, though, that West Fraser Road may not be re-opened before 2020.
In a statement, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure writes:
"West Fraser Road continues to be impassable due to a major washout from significant spring flooding and remains closed for peoples’ safety. Ministry staff understand the impact this closure is having on people, and we will continue to work towards the earliest possible solution. Complex technical assessments have been ongoing as the ministry investigates options to re-establish this route.
The ministry will be seeking further feedback from people who live in the area once conceptual designs and cost estimates have been developed. In the meantime, safety improvements have been made to Garner Road and Webster Lake Road, which are providing a detour while West Fraser Road is closed."
"It was not meant for public traffic. It was meant to be a logging road. It's a hunting road. It was not meant for, on average, 58 households that drive that road every day. It's not meant for that traffic, counters Smith, regarding the detour. "So, yes, they're maintaining it, they're doing what they feel to make it as safe as possible but, long-term, it's not the answer."
And she is even more worried once that gravel road is covered in snow.
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