A road with a reputation
There's no arguing against the statement that Veterans Memorial Highway — a 40-plus kilometre, twolane highway completed less than a decade ago that allows motorists to quickly bypass the many communities in Conception Bay North — has helped change the region's economic and social landscape.
Starting at the Trans-Canada Highway with an overpass near Colliers Big Pond and winding it way north towards Carbonear, running basically parallel with Route 70, or what people now refer to as the old Conception Bay Highway, the highway is a valuable addition to the province's road network.
The evidence is in the fact that communities in the region are growing, and there's obvious prosperity.
Veterans highway is an important factor in this growth, and here's why. Area residents have never had easier access to the many employment and business opportunities in the St. John's region. For most, the capital city's downtown is about an hour away, and once you leave Veterans highway, you're travelling on a four-lane-divided highway that can take you all the way to the city's east end.
Many have joked that the Bay Roberts area has become a suburb of St. John's, with hundreds of vehicles making the daily commute east in the morning, and back home again in the evening. And it's now common to find people who live in Harbour Grace or Victoria, but make their living in St. John's.
We all agree the highway was much-needed. But right from Day 1, it's design has come in for criticism and ridicule from those who use it. The most obvious criticism is the intersection at North River, which has only two ramps connecting it with the highway instead of four. It's created a situation where motorists routinely make illegal u-turns in order to go north towards Bay Roberts, or enter North River when travelling south towards the TCH.
And those concerns now seem to be increasing, along with the volume of traffic and the number of accidents.
In this week's edition of The Compass, we hear from the owner of a driving school in Bay Roberts who was prompted to voice her concerns following a deadly accident near the Makinsons/Hodgewater Line overpass earlier this month. A 60-year-old trucker from Bay Roberts died in the crash.
She asserts the highway is unsafe, below standard and does not help drivers make good decisions when travelling its windy, hilly asphalt. She complains about broken yellow lines in inappropriate locations, dangerous t-intersections at places such as Spaniard's Bay and Harbour Grace, a lack of passing lanes and ruts in the road that causes hydroplaning in wet conditions.
When someone who's profession is driver education speaks with such conviction and frustration on an issue like this, we should listen carefully. To have her point out so many flaws and shortcomings in the highway can be quite jarring for the average motorist who sees the road as nothing more than a route to take you from Point A to Point B.
But don't expect contracts for the construction of passing lanes and new overpasses to be awarded anytime soon. Both the provincial government and the RCMP say the road is fine, and it's motorists who need to take a closer look in the mirror and evaluate their driving habits.
Perhaps that's the best we can expect at a time when demands for road improvements throughout the province are high, and the province is already spending record amounts — more than $230 million this year alone, according to Transportation Minister Tom Hedderson — on road construction and upgrades.
So perhaps the best thing to do is use these latest complaints as a wake-up call for those of us who use the highway. Let's ponder some of these questions: Is it really necessary to pass on that solid yellow line? Do we need to drive the maximum speed limit of 100 km/h when it's dark and/or raining? Are your tires worn out? And are you being responsible if you drive well below the posted speed limit during ideal driving conditions, causing a back-log of frustrated drivers behind you?
Sure, Veterans highway is not perfect, and it likely never will be. So those of us who use it have a duty and a responsibility to make prudent driving choices. Terry Roberts The Compass