Public meeting held to outline plans for Kagawong Main Street Hill project

Ian Anderson

KAGAWONG – A large number of members of the public attended a recent Zoom meeting with representatives of the Township of Billings, the engineers and contractors for the Main Street Hill project, for the latter to get input and outline the plans for the Kagawong initiative.

“We have a lot of participants here tonight, which is good. We want to keep the public informed on this project,” said Todd Gordon, economic development officer with the Township of Billings. The event was a virtual public meeting held last Thursday, April 15, in the evening. Engineering project manager Mark Langille, of EXP Engineering Services and Ray St. George, project manager for Dennis Gratton Construction Limited, contractor on the Main Street Hill reconstruction project, were both on hand to explain the project and answer questions.

Billings Mayor Ian Anderson said, “it is a pleasure to introduce Mark, who has participated in a number of public consultations on this project and was the engineer for the Small Craft Basin project in 2020, and Ray St. George, from Gratton Construction.”

“Thanks for joining,” said Mr. Langille, who pointed out the project has been in the works for a few years and will refurbish about a kilometre of Main Street from Highway 540 to the Aus Hunt Marina. The project will include the installation of storm sewers, roadbed improvements and complete resurfacing. It will also result in a pedestrian path on the east side of the street, down to a concrete sidewalk beginning at Henry Drive, with improved parking on lower Main Street. A better intersection at Carter Crescent, near the fire hall, will be another improvement.

“Currently we are about a month ahead of schedule,” said Mr. Langille. “We started the work on the escarpment and are about two-thirds. . . maybe three-quarters of the way through this component. This work should be complete by the end of next week. Next week we’ll also start stripping and grinding the existing asphalt surface and leaving it as part of the new road base.”

The redesigned drainage system will have two storm water outlets, both with oil-grit separators and rip rap channels for environmental control—separating road contaminants and allowing for sediment settling. 

The first, which will take the water from the steepest part of the hill, will outlet at the upper entrance to the Park Centre. This water will eventually enter the river after sediment settling. The second will outlet in the vicinity of the Anglican church.

Mr. Langille noted that in the next few weeks there will be blasting taking place in the road starting just below the intersection with Carter Crescent and proceeding down into the area of intersection with Upper Street. This blasting will allow the installation of improved storm sewers for more effective drainage. The largest amount of blasting and removal will be in the steepest part of the hill. As the blasted material is removed, the contractor will install the storm sewer system, beginning at the bottom of the steepest portion of hill and working up to the beginning of the drainage system in the vicinity of Carter Crescent.

The work on the main part of the hill also includes work to the escarpment, widening the roadway to allow the pedestrian path on the east side and more room for drainage system maintenance on the west side, as well as decreasing the slope on the escarpment to reduce erosion and rock-fall. The project has also included the relocation of several Hydro One and Bell utility poles.

One component of the work that was not planned, but will be addressed in the project, is dealing with some hydrocarbon contamination in the roadbed in the vicinity of the Anglican Church and post office. The engineering firm, Gratton Construction, and the municipality have been working with the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks on a remediation plan for this area. Work on this component may mean a short-term temporary detour using Upper Street as a by-pass.

While the project is currently well ahead of schedule, when asked if this rate of progress will continue, Mr. St. George indicated that much would depend on when half-loading restrictions are removed from some Island roads. “Half-loading is not a problem we have to deal with within the project area itself, but our aggregate sources are in areas where half-loading restrictions are in place.” This situation, in turn, will depend on the weather as spring progresses. To date, the weather has been milder and drier than usual, and this has contributed to the rapid progress on the project so far.

After the project overview by the two project managers, Mr. Gordon facilitated a question-and-answer session, where participating residents and business people asked several questions on topics that included traffic control and emergency vehicle access, blasting impacts and timing, the environmental impact of the storm sewer outlets and whether the project would address drainage issues from Upper Street at the north end of the project.

“This was a very good session, with excellent questions and discussion,” stated Mayor Anderson. “I’m glad so many people participated. We will continue to keep everyone in the loop as best we can. Todd is our point person on this. We might not have the answers you want, but we will respond. As we move forward, if you have any questions or concerns, please ask.” 

Mr. St. George also made it clear that he is approachable and particularly wants to make things as trouble-free for local businesses as possible. “I also own a restaurant in the Sudbury area,” he said, “so I get it.”

There was strong interest in holding another session later in the project, probably in June, and both project managers expressed willingness to participate, as did council.