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Windsor and Hantsport Railway owner could face serious fines, criminal charges: TIR representative

A school bus travels down a flooded Schurman Road on Feb. 2. Due to the condition of the roadway, the end by the Halfway River is now closed to traffic. ALEX HANES
A school bus travels down a flooded Schurman Road on Feb. 2. - Alex Hanes

HANTSPORT, N.S. – If the owner of the Windsor and Hantsport Railway does not repair a damaged aboiteau along Halfway River, he could be facing serious fines.
Two representatives from the provincial department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, Barbara Baillie and Mark Peachey, provided community members an update on the infrastructure situation near the Halfway River on Feb. 20. 
Baillie, who deals primarily with TIR regulations, said Bob Schmidt, the owner of the Windsor and Hantsport Railway, has been given a strict directive to repair the structure.  
The railway owns the aboiteau, which recently washed away.
The directive is split into three requirements, requiring the railway owner to secure the site and remove the rails; engage an engineering firm and draw up designs for a new aboiteau; and complete construction of a replacement structure by mid-July.
Baillie said the Windsor and Hantsport Railway Company will be responsible for paying for the new structure. 
When asked what happens if Schmidt doesn’t act on the directive, Baillie said he could face fines and potentially jail time if he refuses to comply.
“In the directive, there were specific timelines given; if he misses those timelines… it could lead to (fines of) $200,000 a day or imprisonment,” Baillie said. 
She said the directive went out in January 2018, giving the railway six months to rebuild the aboiteau.

Read more about the failed aboiteau here: 

Surrounding infrastructure being monitored

Peachey, another representative from TIR, said the department is keeping a close eye on the Halfway River bridge and other roadways, especially during high tides. 
“We got a surveying company to come out and we’ve surveyed the connector road, Trunk 1, and Schurman Road, we’ve surveyed that as well, with the intent that we can put a road design together if we come into a situation where we lose the road,” Peachey said. “Also ongoing, we have our bridge crew… and engineer. Whenever we get high tides they go down a couple of days before, during and after to monitor.”
Peachy said field staff are monitoring the situation two or three times a week.
“Our bridge design group has done a design in the event that we do lose the bridge, so the design work is all done on that,” he said. “There’s a bailey bridge that we own that we use temporarily during construction; we have one of those on standby if needed as well.”

Questions from residents

Hantsport resident Jane Davis asked if large trucks should be redirected to Exit 8A, instead of taking the Halfway River bridge in and out of town, while this is being addressed. 
Peachey said the department can’t do that, as the bridge structure is technically sound.  
Some residents asked about leaving the aboiteau as it is and letting the river come in and leave naturally with the tides, while maintaining the road infrastructure. Other residents pointed out that the river is now theoretically fish accessible. 
“We’re getting prepared to re-design the road if need be. If somebody makes the decision that we raise the road, raise the elevation of the bridge, we’re making provisions for that,” Peachey said. “That’s strictly being proactive. What we don’t want to have is folks not being able to get to Hantsport from (Highway) 101.”
Peachey said he couldn’t say how high the road would need to be elevated but estimated it could be anywhere between four and eight feet.
He also said the cost for such a project would likely be approximately $5 million. 
Baillie said the current focus is on the protection of existing private and public infrastructure. 
Warden Abraham Zebian said West Hants council would work with TIR to ensure residents are kept up-to-date on what’s happening with the aboiteau and surrounding infrastructure. 
John Woods, with Minas Energy, said he was concerned with how the aboiteau issue could impact the company's infrastructure. 
“Our biggest long-term issue is shoreline scour, or erosion,” Woods said. “We’re worried about our site in Hantsport.” 
Woods said he wants to know that TIR is doing everything they can to ensure the property and infrastructure in Hantsport is protected. 
“We need to know what’s going on, on a regular basis,” he added. “I’m not just saying it’s transportation and infrastructure renewal’s problem, but unfortunately, they’re going to get the blame or credit, one way or another.”
Throughout the meeting, it was repeatedly suggested that residents with questions and concerns should submit letters to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board and to the minister of transportation.

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