Residents living north of the Town of Woodlands are having to divert their travels once again because of damage to Provincial Road 518 caused by erosion, which resulted in a one-kilometre section of the road becoming impassable.
“(Highway) 518 was closed because we had wind action on the lake and it eroded the road, making it narrower so it became a safety concern for vehicles traveling through there and we (Manitoba Infrastructure) decided to close it,” Kelvin Shuvera, director of regional operation for Manitoba infrastructure, said.
This has caused road users in the area to be concerned as this is not the first time this section of road has undergone erosion resulting in a road closure.
“It’s deceiving because when you drive there you don’t think that a lot of people live there but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of transportation that comes from further north to use that road because it’s a huge shortcut,” said Orval Procter a councillor for the RM of Woodlands and president of the Shoal Lakes Flooded Land Owners Association.
The section that is out of service is located 14 kilometres north of the town of Woodlands.
According to Procter, the road was first closed in 2006 and rebuilt. Then in 2011, the road was once again eroded due to increased water levels. The road at that point was closed for a few years before a repair was made to the small section allowing one-way traffic to flow through.
“Rather than rebuild the road full-width they only made it wide enough for one vehicle to pass through it. So it wasn’t as wide as the rest of the road. Ever since then, it’s been eroding. If it had been two lanes wide (when repaired), we wouldn’t have an issue now. There would still be a lane and a half,” Procter explained.
Residents in the area are now facing longer commutes, which is causing concerns for access to emergency services and could impact the local economy because of transportation costs that businesses in the area will have to incur until the road reopens.
“It’s a major road and it’s not like you have 20 miles of road that you need to rebuild. It’s just a little over a mile,” Procter noted.
Procter acknowledges the situation, but wants the province to act quickly to rectify the situation.
“I can understand the province closing the road because, in that scenario, they are liable if someone gets hurt. They did the right thing by closing it but they had promised to fix it before it got to that point,” he said.
Manitoba Infrastructure is aware of the issues with this section of roadway and are currently weighing their options.
“It’s up to Manitoba Infrastructure to balance the investment that we put into the roadway to keep it open. If water levels remain high, then the costs to keep that road open are significant. What we have to do and what we have done in the past, is communicate with local municipalities. This is in St. Laurent so we will have to have some discussion,” Shuvera said.
The difficulty with regards to fixing Hwy. 518 comes because of the high water levels that have been in the region for the past several years.
“If the water levels do go down, we’ll have to see what we can do to fix it and get it running again, explained Shuvera.
A potential fix for the problem would be to put larger rocks on the side slopes of any newly built road in that area, which would help to limit erosion. This would, however, make for a more costly repair and would have to be completed in the colder months for environmental reasons.
“I think that 518 and higher water levels on Shoal Lake have been going on for years. It’s something that (happens) in that area and we thank (residents) for their patience. We will listen to all the different ideas and the best way (to be heard) is to speak with your local region and your local municipality. We are aware of (residents’) needs we are just trying to provide a balanced approach that will work for a while, so any investment that we make in this roadway needs to be done carefully, because if the winds come up again with high water levels, our investment could be washed away,” Shuvera said.
Residents affected by the road closure contact Kelvin Shuvera for more information by email at kelvin.shuvera.gov.mb.ca or by phone at 204-239-3360.