SYDNEY — For now, it’s a road that leads nowhere. And Gary Campbell admitted it could stay that way for a long time.
The provincial government cannot connect this street to the Sydney Port Access Road intersection with Lingan Road unless it receives the permit to build a grade crossing from the owner of the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway. The U.S.-based company, Genesee & Wyoming, said in August it has safety concerns about a road being constructed at that point on the rail line, and won't give the necessary approvals so the province can finish the project. Cape Breton Post
The president of Nova Scotia Lands, a provincial Crown corporation overseeing construction work on the former coke ovens site, said the road and sidewalk located just a couple of metres short of the intersection at the Sydney Port Access Road and Lingan Road remains incomplete because it requires approval to build a grade crossing over the rail line.
The only thing coming in between the two is the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia railway line, owned by U.S.-based Genesee & Wyoming Inc., which has cited safety concerns in the large intersection.
Campbell said the rail company refuses to grant a permit to complete the four-way intersection.
“We’ve got to try to figure out how we’re going to think our way through that one. In the meantime, we’re going to finish the road as best as we can … but right now we don’t have approval to cross the railway,” Campbell said on Wednesday.
The federal-provincial 10-year, $400-million agreement to remediate the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens sites officially terminates on March 31, and all work must be completed by then, he said.
The Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens cleanup project director Donnie Burke said the project hit this hurdle in the "11th hour."
"Our construction was deemed to be complete on Sept. 30 ... with the contractor on-site. We discussed with the rail officials different options to be able to make the road functional, such as different tie-ins, or if we moved the traffic lights around, but at the end of the day we couldn't solve it there on site," Burke said.
He said the railway denied a permit based on the fact vehicles could get stuck in the intersection when the safety arms come down to stop traffic from approaching trains.
"The fear was a car would get caught in that staging area and it would put the driver at risk. Nobody wants anybody to get hurt because of this crossing."
A completely built intersection would cost approximately $750,000, Burke added.
"We spent close to a half-million dollars so that when we did get approval and the province could negotiate a proper crossing permit for the rail crossing, then we would have about $500,000 of the work already done. We tried to do everything that we could without having to see it tore up, I guess, if the design had to be changed or tweaked a bit."
The road, which is connected to Inverness Street through Victoria Road at one end, may be a road that leads nowhere for the foreseeable future since the construction season is winding down fast.
Campbell said without permission from the railway, the end of the road would have concrete barricades put in place.
“We’ve got to get the paving in before the asphalt plant closes, which will be very shortly, he said.
“In the future, if we never end up hooking it up (to the SPAR intersection), at least put a cul-de-sac on it and it would open part of the former coke oven site for other development.”
The land is owned by Harbourside Commercial Park, a provincial Crown corporation, which currently has 15 tenants on lots already developed and employs almost 250 people on a full- and part-time basis.