Resurfacing of Gabriola roads completed

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, October 9 2019

According to spokespersons from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, the seal-coating portion of the resurfacing done on Gabriola’s roads in September has been completed.

As of press time, MOTI staff said all that remained for the project to be completed was for the top layer - dubbed, “kitty litter” by some - to be swept off.

MOTI staff had received a query from the Sounder on Friday, October 4 on whether lines would be painted on the resurfaced roads, but had not provided any answers by press time.

From the first day that the seal-coating started to go down on the roadways, islanders started voicing their concerns, whether on social media or directly to the Ministry as well as the office of Doug Routley, MLA for Nanaimo-North Cowichan including Gabriola.

The latest examples of seal coating on Gabriola prior to this MOTI work were the projects done on Canso, Coast, and McConvey Roads. Those three jobs were paid for privately by groups of residents on those roads. All three jobs were single coats.

As islanders have pointed out, the privately-paid for jobs do not have the washboard or potholing already present on the roads resurfaced in September.

And many are upset that seal coating was used instead of asphalt - especially those who cycle on the roads, as seal-coating is considerably rougher than asphalt.

MLA  Routley, who is an avid cyclist, said he’s ridden on every imaginable surface. 

He’s also been in the position of opposing seal coating - having watched two different projects in the Cowichan area finish with less-than-favourable results.

“I was working in Youbou in 1980 when they seal coated the road. It was a disaster. Large aggregate. There was a spate of broken windshields.”

When he was elected MLA in mid-2000s, the same stretch of road was sealed again, with similar poor results, and he and area residents protested.

That section was ground up and used for the road to Port Renfrew.

“When you’re driving  Cowichan to Renfrew, you’re driving on seal coating that was the Cowichan Highway.

Routley said it is important to consider the cost effectiveness of seal coating - which is cheaper per kilometer than asphalt.

“If [MOTI] can do 13km compared to 3 to 5. that seems reasonable to me, but we’ll see what it looks like when they say it’s done.”

According to Routley’s office and MOTI, seal coating - also called chip sealing - “is an effective means of repairing and hard surfacing of roads. Sealcoating is a ministry approved method of hard surfacing and repairing roads, which is recognized throughout North America as an effective means to re-surface and repair roads.

“Hot mix asphalt paving on Gabriola is very cost prohibitive time sensitive, which drives the cost up exponentially. 

“The Ministry says they were able to re-surface 13km of roadway on Gabriola by sealcoating instead of paving, paving the roads would have only resulted in a couple of kilometers of road being paved with the funding that was available. 

“Through the maintenance contractor, the ministry did end up supplementing the project with paving, where sealcoating would not be easily applied - on Ferry Hill and Brickyard hill.”

Information from MOTI provided by Routley’s office stated there was a double layer of sealcoat used.

The first layer is a “B” chip (bigger aggregate size), and the top surface with an “E” chip, which is a finer aggregate and will provide a smoother hard surface. According to MOTI, most of the pulverized roads were old seal coated roads and so the surface type has not changed. 

The project did also include upgrading some gravel surfaced roads to a hard surface. The expectation is that the seal coating on the roads should last over 10 years.

As for the washboard, Routley said they have been told by MOTI the roads would be smoother once the second coat was applied. Routley’s office said he will be coming to the island (possibly with his bicycle) to test the roads himself. 

“While Doug has maintained having no problems cycling on seal coated roads before, there is always a chance that there could be issues with the application itself.”

MOTI staff said recent rain will not affect work already completed - and that claims for damages can be made through the Ministry’s Claims Department at: BCHighwaysClaims@gov.bc.ca