Beat up road on beaten path
Residents get bumpy ride on New Harbour Barrens
Winter is coming to an end, and as usual, it has left a reminder of its presence — potholes. Those huge crater-size depressions caused by the rapid expansion and contraction of asphalt are everywhere and the New Harbour Barrens is full of them. In fact many residents describe the well-travelled stretch of highway (Route 73), which links Trinity and Conception Bays, as an obstacle course in places.
Randy from Trinity Bay is one of the hundreds of people who use the road to commute to work on a daily basis.
“Right now certain sections of it aren’t fit to drive on because of the potholes,” he said.“Like most I try to weave my car around them, but that can be dangerous. There are no shoulders left on the road in many places either and too many ruts to count all over the place. If a driver happens to fishtail and hit the edge of the pavement in a place where the shoulders have eroded away, there’s a good chance he or she won’t be able to get their car back on the road. More than likely they’ll hit the loose gravel and then they’re out in a ditch,” he adds.
According to Randy the New Harbour Barrens road is a highly travelled highway.
“It’s used as much, if not more than the Heart’s Content Barrens, “ he said.“It’s also the main route an ambulance has to take to get from Trinity Bay to the hospital in Carbonear. Hundreds of residents depend on that road to get them safely to the hospital and to various businesses in Conception Bay.”
Between 40-50 teachers and hundreds of business people from Conception Bay use the road to commute to their workplaces every day. Judy, from Conception Bay, is among them.
She wants government to put her tax dollars towards paving the New Harbour Barrens.
‘Keeps getting worse’
“That’s what our tax dollars are there for, isn’t it?” she said. “I’m sick of driving over it and almost losing half of my car in one of the potholes every day. The ruts and the gouged out shoulders are ridiculous and each year the condition of the road keeps getting worse. Every now and then as an attempt to alleviate the problem there’s a few asphalt patches put in here, there and everywhere, but that doesn’t help at all. The pavement is worn away and frost gets in under it and then pops it out causing potholes and bumps.”
Snow clearing and upkeep of the New Harbour Barrens road falls under the responsibility of the Department of Transportation and Works, Bay Roberts Depot.
On Monday March 9 The Compasscalled Steve Abbott, super- intendent of operations for the department, who suggested we call Don Brennan, regional director of Transportation and Works.
“We recognize that work needs to be carried out on that road; however I wouldn’t be able to comment on whether or not any improvements will be made until the provincial budget comes down,” said Brennan. “Road projects of this nature fall under the Provincial Roads Program and until the budget for that is approved I wouldn’t be able to say what the plan for the New Harbour Barrens will be.”
Brennan did say repairs to the road are ongoing throughout the year.
“If there are potholes or some other urgent repairs needed then it should be done,” he said. “All someone has to do is call a depot and report it.”
Pothole repair is a simple process: drop an asphalt mix into the offending fissure and push it down with something heavy. Even driving the wheel of a heavy-duty truck over the mix can sometimes do the trick.
“The problem with patching potholes or filling them in is the first time it rains it just basically washes away,” said both Randy and Judy.“And we all know how much rain we get around here. Patching isn’t the cure-all.The long-term solution is to get that road repaved.”
Meanwhile because advocating for funding to upgrade the road falls under a priority list established by the MHAs, Brennan suggested The Compass give them a call. On Monday March 9, The Compass called Port de Grave MHA Roland Butler, Trinity Bay de Verde MHA, Charlene Johnson, Carbonear MHA Jerome Kennedy and Bellevue MHA Calvin Peach.
In the past upgrading the New Harbour Barrens was a shared responsibility between Johnson and Butler. However in 2007 the electoral boundaries changed and it seems the road became everyone’s — and no one’s — responsibility.
“It’s a bit of a no man’s land,” said Butler, whose district now ends in Spaniard’s Bay.
“None of us are responsible for all of it, but as far as I am concerned all of us are responsible for some of it. The road isn’t in my district anymore, not even as it once was before the electoral boundary change. However I still advocate for repairs to it because it is the main link between the two areas. Many people in Trinity Bay come to Bay Roberts shopping or for work and some from here go to Trinity Bay for work. Therefore I do go looking for funding to repair and pave it, but I have to be honest because the road is no longer under my district boundary, I’m pretty limited.There are many other roads in my district I have to look out for as well.”
Butler cites poor quality of pavement as being part of the problem.
Quality of pavement
“Some of the larger potholes are on the new pavement that was put down last year,” he said.“That brings into question the quality of the pavement — for it to deteriorate that quickly there has to be something wrong with the quality of the pavement.”
According to Butler pavement quality and roadwork is a concern across the province.
“The issue was put forth as a resolution during a Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador convention last year,” he said. “It’s happening in many towns and certainly needs to be looked at and addressed.”
Meanwhile Bellevue MHA Calvin Peach preferred not to comment on the condition of the New Harbour Barrens. Peach’s electoral district takes in the community of New Harbour, but according to information provided by the province’s Chief Electoral Office, it ends on the centre line at the turnoff to New Harbour Barrens.
While the MHA felt the road was in “Minister Johnson’s dis- trict,” not his, and he wasn’t at liberty to comment he said he sympathizes with the people using the road, but has to put the needs of his own district first. The MHA did say he has expressed concern on the condition of the road to Transportation Minister Trevor Taylor. Peach referred The Compass to him.
The Compasscalled the Department of Transportation and spoke to a number of people before leaving a voice mail message with the department’s director of communications asking whether any work will be carried out on New Harbour Barrens in the next few months. As of Friday, March 13 there was no reply. While an official from Minister Johnson’s office did return a call from The Compassthe minister was unavailable for comment. Despite several calls and voice mails to Minister Jerome Kennedy’s office, as of Friday March 13, there was no reply.
Meanwhile, in early March a number of concerned residents established a Facebook website Pave the New Harbour Barrens with the hope of getting the situation addressed.
On Tuesday, March 10, workers from Transportation showed up on New Harbour Barrens, and filled in the potholes.
“I hope they know that’s just a Band-Aid solution, a temporary fix,” said Randy. “That asphalt won’t be there long because for one thing it probably wasn’t even heated up enough before it was put in the holes. Was it hot patch or just a bit of stone shovelled in? The bottom line is that road needs to be repaved, so they’ve got a long ways to go before they’re done. It’s pretty bad, I’ve been on roller coasters that were an easier ride.”
CRATERS AND CRACKS - Potholes like this one on the New Harbour Barrens are damaging cars and upsetting motorists.
PATCHED UP - People from Trinity and Conception Bays say patching potholes is only a Band-Aid solution. They say all of the well-travelled highway needs to be repaved.