Norfolk County council’s thinking on the Long Point Causeway continues to evolve.
At this point, it would appear almost every aspect of the 3.7-kilometre project is under review. A major shift involves the causeway roadbed and whether it needs to be replaced.
Some council members – including Port Rowan Coun. Tom Masschaele – wonder whether a blacktop shave-and-pave would be sufficient. If so, that would greatly reduce the project’s estimated cost of $12 million.
“We’re trying to get this massively expensive project down to a manageable cost,” Masschaele said at the Oct. 3 meeting of Norfolk council.
Delhi Coun. Mike Columbus said it would be a big break if the county could leave the road bed in place.
“Shave-and-pave sounds pretty good,” Columbus said. “We have roads that are in a lot worse shape.”
Masschaele supports bicycle lanes but is willing to forgo these as well if council wishes.
Friends of the Causeway Association (FOCAS) – a Long Point-area lobby group – has come out against the removal of the black willow and poplar trees that line the causeway. As such, FOCAS does not support bicycle lanes as part of this project.
FOCAS chair Bob Welsh told council that the causeway project – as conceived – will cost the Sandboy Marina and Trailer Park and Marina Shores nearby parking spaces and trailer sites.
In recent years, council has heard the project should incorporate bicycle lanes as a safety measure for pedestrians and cyclists.
Welsh suggested that concerns over safety are overblown. He noted that four people have died on the causeway in two separate motor-vehicle crashes since 1962.
“The fact the causeway is being widened due to `danger’ is belied by the facts,” Welsh said. “There are not enough cyclists to use the road to account for this. And they only use the road for two or three months of the year.”
Others on council believe Norfolk should take advantage of this opportunity to capitalize on the causeway’s scenic vistas. With regard to bicycle lanes, Windham Coun. Chris Van Paassen said it may be a case of “build it and they will come.”
For her part, Mayor Kristal Chopp indicated she will go to bat for bicycle lanes if council decides to revisit them. A 7.4-kilometre round-trip on a bicycle, she said, “would be a fantastic thing to do for the day.”
Council also discussed the possibility of applying recent developments in engineering to the construction of a bicycle-pedestrian pathway in the Big Creek Marsh on the west side of the road.
Whatever the county decides, Welsh asked council to spare the trees. He said their root systems are key to anchoring the roadbed in place.
Welsh added the history of Long Point in recent years has been one of loss – loss of businesses, restaurants, grocery stores, cottages to severe weather, a church, a dance hall, a service station, a motel and 80 percent of the hamlet’s beach due to record-high water levels. Welsh asked council to let the community keep its tree-lined causeway.
Council is also having second thoughts about the pending replacement of the bridge over Big Creek where it empties into Long Point Bay.
Norfolk, the province and the federal government are expected to share the $6-million cost. However, some suspect the job can be done faster and less expensively with the installation of two pre-fabricated structures.
“They could be quite charming and cute,” Mayor Chopp said.
Norfolk’s engineering consultant on the causeway is Parsons Inc. of London. Jason Godby, Norfolk’s interim general manager of public works, will invite a Parsons representative to address the issues council raised at last Thursday’s meeting. The discussion will resume at a later date.