Route 11 bypass is a go. Fraser explains his change of heart on project that he criticized in 2014.
The bypass on Route 11 that will reduce the number of access points on the highway between Miramichi and Glenwood from 52 to 2 got the funding it needed today to go ahead. Minister of DTI, Bill Fraser said work has been progressing on the project for months, like geological and environmental work, in anticipation of the federal government coming on board and now it’s time for action.
(click photo to enlarge: Pat Finnigan, Dominic LeBlanc, Bill Fraser, Brian Gallant, Lisa Harris, Bertrand LeBlanc)
The construction part of the work will see shovels in the ground in 2018, with completion in 2021. In a meeting prior to the announcement, the plans for the bypass were confirmed as the last set of plans to be shown to the public, ones that do not close off the North and South Napan Roads, nor the O’Donnell Road. Fraser said land acquisition was underway, and expropriation is an option where deals can’t be reached. The cost of the 11 kilometer route from King Street to Glenwood will be $90 million. The total cost of construction on Route 11, including the twinning of the highway between Shediac Bridge and Bouctouche, is $417 million - $273 million from the feds, and $147 from the province.
See bypass plans HERE.
Fraser called the project an important piece of infrastructure that would create 2500 jobs over the 4 years it would take to construct, and benefit the regions it connects. “I’m excited for the improvements to the quality of life for Miramichiers,” Fraser said.
Fraser said one of the reasons for the project is safety, and mentioned specifically an accident on Route 11 last year near the Irving, where a local pastor was on hand and prayed for the victims, and wrote a letter to the media in support of the bypass, even though many local businesses along Route 11 see it as a very bad idea.
Fraser’s safety reasoning was backed up by collision statistics in the brochure that was circulated about the project.. People who were against the project argued that passing lanes between Miramichi and Kouchibouguac are all that is needed to achieve a safer highway.
Collision Stats for Route 11
Section 1: Shediac To Kouchibouguac 71 km
Section 2: Kouchibouguac to North Black River 36 km
Section 3: King Street to North Black River 11 km
Did Fraser Flip Flop?
In April 2014 Fraser told the Miramichi Leader he didn’t like the lack of consultation with businesses on Route 11, and said he felt the bypass would affect them adversely. He also said in the interview that passing lanes that were championed by business owners were also a better idea.
He was quoted as saying aside from safety, the road was to help drive the economy in Northern NB, but said he thought the plan would drastically affect up to 20 businesses in Miramichi if it went ahead as planned.
The original plans for the bypass were changed to allow access to King Street, and thus the wharf, for businesses in the industrial park and on the former base. The original plan also had no bridges over the Napan Roads, but the new one does.
MO))) asked Fraser today what changed his mind about the project, and he failed to answer the question, but did reiterate the temporary construction jobs the project will create.
Fraser said: “Obviously you have to look at safety, and jobs are important. As the Premier said this is going to create 2500 jobs for 4 years, and drive a lot of business to local businesses during the construction phase. There’s not going to be a contractor who isn’t busy during the construction phase. Our local businesses need to take advantage of that, I want to sit down with them and work on some plans and signage, something we can do to drive people into this new “business corridor”. I got a call from a major company looking for details because they want to locate where those businesses are on Route 11 in Miramichi. I think in the future we will see a tremendous benefit for the businesses in that corridor that want to take advantage of it, and we are going to work with them every step of the way to make sure they do.”
Premier Gallant, who was listening to Fraser’s answer also added: “The jobs created over the construction phase is one thing, but we are really interested in the long term benefits to the region in tourism, economic development, as well as making the route as safe as possible. There are things you have to look at in a transition phase of a big project like this, and we have time to figure this out to ensure everyone participates in the economic benefits this project will bring to the Miramichi region.”
The Portage Restaurant on Route 11 has been a Miramichi fixture for decades. But Owner Wesley Cable isn’t sure that it can continue with a big drop in traffic that is sure to happen once the bypass is in use.
“My business was worth X amount of dollars yesterday, what is it worth today. It’s not worth the land it is sitting on. I really don’t think it’s a good expenditure. It’s a lot of money and we are not gaining anything. If I get business from 5% of the cars that go by my business, what happens if the majority of traffic take the bypass? It’s all a numbers game, just do the numbers. Since the beginning they never gave us any idea how this would benefit us. Bill Fraser told me he realized there was going to be some concessions for some businesses, and that was how our conversation went.
Laurie Patterson also owns a business on Route 11, and in 2014 said that a big portion of his business comes from people who are travelling to the Acadian Peninsula and stop in because his inventory is visible from the highway. Patterson also has dealerships in other cities that are situated on busy routes.
“Everything I built, I built close to the road for that reason. You pay a lot more money for the land, but it pays off. The more people that see you, the more you are going to sell.”