by Chris Pickup

Haldimand Council has voted half a million dollars in increased expenditure to $1.7million to accelerate the rate of gravel road conversions.

The present schedule for conversions stretches to 2037, however the increased funding will bring the final date closer by six years, to 2031.

HA further funding increase that would bring the conversion program end date forward by another six years, has been deferred for consideration to the capital budget in February.

A 2004 roads needs study showed the payback period for converting a gravel road section to surface treatment (tar and chip) was five and a half years. At that time the cost per km over a 22 year time period was approximately $75,000 for gravel sections and $60,000 for surface treated sections, so there are long term savings from the program.

Dunnville councillor Bernie Corbett noted he has had numerous complaints from residents on gravel roads about the dust and road conditions.

Mayor Ken Hewitt noted at a year end review open house that roads are probably one of the largest items in the county budget. Haldimand is geographically the size of Toronto, he said, and one of the challenges to fixing all roads is there are so many roads and so few residents to pay.

One resident said she was thrilled when her road was converted but became dismayed that less than a year later it was already being patched. Another noted the gravel shoulder on her newly converted road was crumbling away to the extent it couldn’t be walked on. It was suggested it wasn’t being built wide enough for farm machinery that has to move to the side of the road to allow vehicles to pass and that maybe contractors needed better supervision.

County staffer Tyson Haedrich advised the patching problem was quite literally down to the properties of Haldimand’s notorious clay soil. It can take up to eight years to establish a new gravel conversion, he said, and during that time it is constant patching and patching again to fill the cracks and holes that appear until the roadbed settles.