The Quesnel School District board of education will write to the provincial government to reiterate its concerns about West Fraser Road.
At the Jan. 15 board meeting, trustees voted to write to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) about the need to rebuild West Fraser Road without delay. The road has been closed since April 2018, with residents required to take a detour along a gravel road.
“I think we should continue the letter-writing campaign just to reiterate our concerns because it is an ongoing issue,” said trustee Tony Goulet, who made the motion to write the letter. “We just need to reiterate over and over and over again and make sure we make that point of how unsafe that road is.”
Trustee Gloria Jackson, participating in the meeting by telephone, was happy to move forward with writing another letter.
“We are at the 20-month mark here where we haven’t had a good road into Quesnel, and it’s been an ongoing struggle — and one of the reasons I’m not at the board meeting tonight is because it’s just an unsafe road for me to travel on at -30 C at 10 o’clock, 10:30 at night, and that goes for every other community member out here,” she said. “We are very fortunate that nobody has had any incidents on this road and that we’ve had good bus drivers that have kept our children safe, but it is becoming a toll, and I certainly agree with Trustee Goulet that we need to continue with the letter campaign. I really feel the school district is one of the best advocates for the replacement of this.”
The motion to write a letter to MOTI was prompted by trustees receiving an email from Irene Hubbard asking for support to put pressure on the ministry to ensure West Fraser Road is rebuilt this year.
“Extensions are not acceptable,” wrote Hubbard. “There has to be financial consequences for your board caused by having to use the detour road. Extra fuel, extra driver hours and increased repairs/maintenance to the bus, as the detour is not maintained satisfactorily. The road is also very dangerous … my son was narrowly missed by the trailer of an out-of-control logging truck just last week.”
Superintendent Sue-Ellen Miller noted the school district recently spoke with Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes about West Fraser Road before Christmas, as well.
“As we continue on with our struggles around West Fraser Road, and we have our own personal struggles around the busing and the amount of time it’s taking for kids, but here we have a message that has come forward to us from a parent, talking to us about her concerns around the road and asking us to continue to lobby the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to continue to put pressure on them to have this road upgraded and built sooner rather than later,” she said.
In April 2018, high water levels from the spring freshet caused Narcosli Creek to erode five sections of the West Fraser Road, on the west side of the Fraser River, approximately 17 kilometres south of Quesnel. The damage was severe, spread over a three-kilometre section of road, and the road had to be closed.
Ten conceptual designs for new route options were developed. The ministry has completed the functional design of the preferred alignment that was presented at an open house in May 2019. According to MOTI’s West Fraser Road Flood Recovery webpage, while design work continues on this preferred option, the ministry will be completing archaeological and environmental impact assessments, as well as a hydrotechnical assessment of the revised preferred alignment. The ministry will apply for all necessary permits once these assessments are completed.
“The ministry submitted a business case to the federal government asking for the project to be eligible for Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements (DFAA) funding and has since had positive discussions with our federal counterparts,” states the website.