A road with a rep­u­ta­tion

The Compass - - OPINION -

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

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