HARRISONBURG, Ontario — For some drivers, there’s just no explanation for why what looks like a temporary pavement repair is still closed while they maneuver through Harrisonburg this month.
A mile-long stretch of Blatchford Avenue in Harrisonburg, a suburb southwest of Toronto, was closed in June for as much as six months. The work covered the road from one end to the other, with the goal of widening the shoulder at the end of the driveways for nearby high-rises.
“We found it was extremely dangerous,” said Evan Silver, Ontario’s commissioner of transportation and infrastructure. “You had plowing coming through the side of the road.”
But the work has been going on so long it’s no longer needed, the city says. Toronto requires alternate routes. But thousands of drivers have left behind RVs and other belongings on the sidewalk on the street below, and parking lots have been used as car repair garages.
Traditionally, a summer shutdown of the road for road reconstruction would be good news for the residents. If the road were done right, workers would clear up where the road leaves a shoulder and resurface the pavement at the left.
But the road hasn’t been done right. At the end of the right shoulder, workers built a wall out of pebbles and sand – much of it covered in weeds and grass – and laid a concrete base down.
The city hasn’t been able to repair what looks like a double failure. Traffic has ground to a halt at the curb in the middle of the street. On busy days, cars stop behind several planters or languidly turn away from the traffic, elbowing between vehicles farther down the block.
“We can’t keep going,” said Sean Keeney, a 38-year-old who lives along the street and became frustrated when he noticed people throwing garbage on the street.
“It’s not safe for our kids to get out of the car,” he said. “It’s not safe for people to even drive on it.”
The city said it’s not aware of any injuries or accidents stemming from the work, or any accidents around parking lots where vehicles have been left abandoned.
City officials admit they’re a bit baffled by the work. “It’s puzzling,” Silver said. “It’s an engineering headache.”
It’s in the middle of a region that’s famous for its car culture. The area is also part of one of Canada’s oldest cities, which is where the National Hockey League’s Toronto Maple Leafs began in 1892.
But when the city wrapped up in June, the work hadn’t gotten done. Drivers were wondering why they couldn’t go right where they wanted to. One suggested “it might be a promotional deal between Bridgestone and Mutual of Omaha.” Another pointed out that the city is closed during the Toronto National Hockey League All-Star Game next month.
One homeowner reached out to officials through the Mayor’s Communications Management Group – the mayor’s public relations arm – with a simple question: “Why can’t we go back to enjoying our new South Main Street experience, where the pavement is even and the traffic isn’t backed up?”
Silver explained the lack of progress. When the city closed down the road, the contractor started down the wrong path. With the work done, the company wouldn’t have access to the right shoulder, he said.
The contractor knew the work was coming, but put plans in for the right shoulder and turned around, assuming it was going to be finished when the city paid the bill.
Silver said the work will only be done if the contractors are fully reimbursed.
“I think it’s unfortunate that we’re stuck with an unfinished job,” he said. “You can look at it from any angle. But we have to wait for the final phase. This is construction work that comes with real expenses.”
— Sean Scully,
The Washington Post