When Robert Dawe built his garage in 1959, he could stand on the Conception Bay South highway and smoke a full cigarette without a vehicle passing by.
“I was working on it till 1960,” he said Thursday from his backyard shed behind the bigger garage.
“Then, you could go out in the middle of the road and sit down and smoke a cigarette before a car would come up or down. You could spend five or six minutes sometimes. Now you goes out to go down the road and I tell you, you got to watch it. It’s a job to get down the road,” Dawe said.
And the traffic is about to get worse outside his home in Seal Cove as the province continues the Conception Bay South Bypass Road extension project from Legion Road in Kelligrews, along Route 60, to just below the College of the North Atlantic Seal Cove campus.
Dawe and his wife, Millicent, aren’t complaining about the traffic — they just wish the extension was finished.
They remember when the surveyor stood next to their property to mark the land where a super-highway would one day run — that was 35 years ago.
“They’ve been at this for years. I’ve never seen the likes of surveying, always surveying,” said Millicent, working in her garden as the sounds of heavy equipment could be heard beeping, digging and dumping in the background.
“I wish it was done,” Dawe said. “They started to cut the trails 35 years ago. After a little while they’d come back and survey again. You could see the trail. They’ve been at it some spell. I think a lot of it has to do with the elections — election bait. They’re going to do it, going to do it, going to do it,” he said counting on his fingers. “Now this is the fourth time — Christ almighty.”
The $26-million project — cost-shared with the federal government — began in 2010 and includes a 5.6-kilometre highway, underpasses and overpasses, on-ramps and off-ramps.
When the announcement was made, C.B.S. MHA Terry French said the extension will help remove heavy commuter traffic from Route 60, which will lead to more efficient traffic flow in the town.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation and Works said the project is scheduled to wrap up at the end of the summer or early fall, with the last piece of work being the overpass on Scott’s Road in Kelligrews.
Scott’s Road has been severed and can only be accessed by driving onto Andrew’s Road.
C.B.S. Coun. Kirk Youden, who represents Ward 4 — Riverdale to Quarry Bridge — said a few roads in the town have been affected by the work.
He said Scott’s Road will be rejoined once the overpass is built, but there will be some adjustments for residents.
“There’s been some renaming of streets and addresses changed, which the town has done in advance, but with any construction project there’s going to be changes and people are going to complain,” Youden said.
“But we’ve been lobbying for 10 years to finish it and while residents don’t like to be woken up 6:30 or 7 o’clock in the morning, and don’t like to be delayed in traffic, they certainly will enjoy the benefits when they have easier access to the city, to their jobs,” he said.
And by opening up the town, C.B.S. has opened up the opportunity for more commercial development, Youden said.
Five years ago, the town didn’t have any industrial land, but now the road will encourage new commercial development, especially with the industrial park at the top of Legion Road, he said.
“The road has been instrumental in the development of Conception Bay South. We were a one-road town before, but now we have more access to land for all developments.”
But Youden said there will be inconveniences until the road is finished.
One of those is a detour in Seal Cove that was announced in a public advisory Tuesday from the Department of Transportation and Works.
“The Department of Transportation and Works advises that traffic will temporarily be diverted through Seal Cove via Garden Road and Seal Cove Road between Wednesday, June 5 and Tuesday, June 11. This diversion is necessary as construction of the Conception Bay South (CBS) Bypass advances to tie-in Route 60 near Seal Cove,” it said.
The town also has an advisory on its website adding Route 60 will be accessible to businesses and residences in that area.
The detour wasn’t in effect Thursday, but the department’s spokeswoman said the contractor advised the department it may be another day or two before it is ready to divert traffic.
“It’s only a five-minute diversion. I’m sure people will complain about having to go off the road down into Seal Cove, but contractors have a short period to get things done, so I guess they don’t want to close it until they have to. We’ve been making people aware it is coming,” Youden said.