LOWER MACCAN - With construction set to begin on repaving the highway leading to the Joggins Fossil Cliffs, residents along the Lower Maccan Road are afraid the government is missing a golden opportunity to fix their highway.
"I don't want to take anything away from the other road, but now that it's being done it would be the perfect time to do this road as well," Dara Bourgeois said. "The materials and the crews would all be here anyway. There would never be a better time to do this one."
Residents along the 16-kilometre loop that runs from Maccan to Strathcona have been asking the province's Transportation Department to fix their road for several years. Their requests, however, have fallen upon deaf ears and the road has continued to deteriorate.
"It's at the point that when people visit they don't say, 'Hi, how are you?' they say your road is terrible," Bourgeois' wife, Darlene, said.
The province announced last summer its plans to repave 18 kilometres of Highway 242 from Maccan to Joggins over two years including several streets in River Hebert. Work has already begun on the first phase of the project with brush clearing from sides of the highway through the Maccan woods.
Approximately 8.8 kilometres of the highway is expected to be completed by late July including from the Junction of Route 302 at Maccan to the Lower Maccan Road near Strathcona.
Bourgeois said very little work has been done on the road since it was last paved in 1976 and 1977. Road crews do patch work on the highway every summer, but he feels there will soon be no asphalt left to patch.
The situation worsened last week when workers from the department barricaded a portion of the road after heavy rains and rising river levels washed out a culvert near the Maccan River. The washout has resulted in a six-kilometre detour for residents such as Bourgeois.
The washout and the road's poor condition has Bourgeois worried for his mother, who lives just up the road from him and relies on nursing care to stay at home.
"I'm terrified that something could happen to her and it would take the ambulance even longer to get here," he said. "Before the road washed out it would take the ambulance 20 minutes to get here from Amherst, now it would take half an hour or more."
He's also concerned that the road's condition is going impact basic services such as mail, newspaper delivery, garbage pickup and dairy service delivery.
For Harry Dow, who operates a sleigh ride operation in winter, the road's condition is meaning lost revenue.
"That's the only complaint I get," Dow said. "It has cost me money because some people say the road's too rough for them to come down in their own vehicles. Most of our traffic comes by bus, but it's even getting more difficult for them."
Dow said the road's problems has a lot to do with the pit ash that used as its base.
"It's like lime and that it deteriorates and dissolves over time," he said. "They have to completely redo it with a new base and new pavement."
Area MLA Murray Scott said he was on the Lower Maccan Road on Tuesday and while he expects the washout to be repaired soon, he is not holding out much hope the road will be paved this year.
"It's not as easy as just telling the contractor to pave that road too. It's a fairly long piece of road and it would cost several million dollars to do," said Scott. "I'm encouraging the department to do some patching work and I'll be continuing to ask for it to be repaved sometime in the future. It's just not going to happen this year."
Scott said there are many roads in both Cumberland South and Cumberland North that need to be repaved and repaired, but he admitted there's only so much money to go around.