Jocko Creek issue resolved
Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation revealed this week that no shutdown of Highway 655 will be necessary to carry out repairs to the Jocko Creek culvert. That is welcome news according to Kapuskasing Mayor Alan Spacek, who said up to 1,500 vehicles use the highway each day to connect Timmins with the communities of Kapuskasing, Hearst and Smooth Rock Falls.
Lobbying by Northeastern Ontario municipal leaders has paid off with a favourable decision that staves off the planned shutdown of Highway 655 this summer.
Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation (MTO) had planned to do a culvert replacement at Jocko Creek where it meets Highway 655, just north of Timmins, this coming summer. The original MTO plan, as described to several municipalities, was to close off Highway 655 completely for a two-week period, so the repair could be carried out.
That situation has changed.
Kapuskasing Mayor Alan Spacek revealed Wednesday that the Jocko Creek culvert repair will indeed take place, and with minimal inconvenience for the motorists from the communities of Hearst, Kapuskasing and Smooth Rock Falls. He said he was told by MTO this week that the repair work will go forward without closing the highway.
The only difference is that there is no guarantee the work will get done this coming summer, said Spacek. He said he was told by MTO officials that the work will involve keeping at least one highway lane open at a time, or a modified two-lane option, during the repair period.
This means some extra pre-engineering work is required before the project goes to tender. Spacek said he was told if the project cannot be done during the summer of 2015, it will be pushed back to the summer of 2016.
Earlier this year, the prospect of shutting the highway caused alarm for businesses in many communities along the northern route of Highway 11, that normally use Highway 655 to connect with Timmins, said Spacek. The alternative would involve an 80- to 90-minute detour by Cochrane and Iroquois Falls and then using Municipal Road (Highway 67) to connect with Highway 101.
Spacek said he had received several calls from business people indicating they do business with Timmins on a daily basis and that Highway 655 is a vital link, with upwards of 1,500 vehicles a day using that road. He said this doesn’t count the many people that need to connect with Sudbury, through Timmins, for medical appointments, schooling or business.
Spacek said he appreciates that the MTO was able to consult with several communities and came up with a solution that he believes will be welcomed by all stakeholders.
“I extend a thank you to Eric Doidge, Regional Northeastern Director with the Ministry of Transportation,” said Spacek.
He said MTO had met with municipal leaders and outlined their initial plan which caused the initial alarm.
“They had some options. They presented those options and they took the input from the communities and acted accordingly. It’s a good news story,” said Spacek.
“That means by default, they’re going to go with their Plan-B and as such they may not get to that this year, for what’s required for the engineering and the tendering. So he did commit to increase inspections and making sure that culvert remains safe for the public.”