Coastal Plane Highway Damage: Intense Rainfall Washes Away 100 Meters of Road

Heavy rains this weekend also washed away portions of the Coastal Plane Highway. This morning, the Ministry of Infrastructure Development and Housing learned that an estimated 100 meters of the road near mile 17.5 of the highway was washed away. According to the ministry, the intense rainfall caused the area to flood and water overtopped a culvert in the area. The road was built to withstand flooding, but the situation was exacerbated by debris that prevented the water from flowing into the nearby Soldier Creek. According to the ministry’s Chief Engineer Evondale Moody, the flooding was worsened by increased development in the area and the recent wildfires. 

Evondale Moody, Engineering Coordinator, MIDH: “We visited the site where we observed that the water had already receded at the Gales Point Junction and there was no damage to the pavement within that area because that was one o the floodways that we had constructed under the Coastal Highway so that acted as how it was supposed to perform. In terms of the area that was affected where we had degradation of the pavement on the approach to Soldier Creek Bridge what I found out this morning was that there is land clearing that is being done up stream of the Soldier Creek itself whereby logging is occurring and of course we had the forest fires that we had in the last two months within that area as well and so what basically transpired was that you had blockage of the Solider Creek itself in terms of logs and because of that it affected the overflow culverts that we have on the approach to the Soldier Creek Bridge. We have two culverts there that are three meters wide by one point five meter high and those culverts were designed under the Coastal Plane Highway Project as overflow culverts for the Soldier Creek Bridge. But there was Sibun Bridge and both structures were built a long time ago and those bridges have a clearance of approximately ten meters high. So from what we saw you still had sufficient capacity and hydraulic flow under that structure and so the runoff was diverted through those other tributaries that significantly affected those two culverts because those two culverts did not have the hydraulic capacity to contain that water and so that overflowed the road there causing the pavement to be deteriorated.” 

While many have questioned whether the road’s construction played a role in its damage, Moody says that the contractor had no fault. He explained that the road was well-built, and its culverts were recently cleared but the flooding was unprecedented.

Evondale Moody, Engineering Coordinator, MIDH: “Photos that you have seen yes it will depict that it is something critical that has occurred on the Coastal Highway but I believe as individuals and a country we need to look at the project holistically because the entire project is 36 miles. The damage that has been done to the highway on the approach to Soldier Creek Bridge is only a hundred meters which would be I would say 0.0017% of a mile so it’s very minute. But because you’re looking at the picture and the way that the media has spinned it it would appear as though the entire Coastal Highway is falling apart. And I don’t think that that is the case and I don’t think that that should be the information that should be disseminated  to the public because that is not the intent or that is not the idea. When we designed the Coastal Highway four years ago or five years ago we took into consideration all the climate resilient factors that we thought were necessary for us to project on where the flood paths will occur and where the flooding will be intensified. However as you guys know climate change is real and it changes every single day an so we did not expect that we would have that problem at that location however we still took it into consideration with the installation of those two large culverts. Those culverts were never there before. It was only the bridge and so in addition to that we need up raising the approach to the bridge two meters has I indicated and can you imagine if that road wasn’t raised two meters then the entire approach would have been impassable. So I think we have taken as much as we knew when we did the design however times are changing, the climate is changing and so those are the effects we have of climate change and we’ve got to try and stay on target with that and try and do our best as we can to execute the works that we’re doing as best as we can with the funds available.”

Moody added that work to repair the road will commence after careful deliberation to determine the best remedy. 

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