‘It could have been a lot worse’
Burgeo mayor hopes province will learn from Thanksgiving storm
Barbara Barter still hadn’t seen the damage to the Burgeo Highway first-hand on Wednesday morning.
Burgeo’s mayor was stranded in Clarenville, waiting for the Trans-Canada Highway to reopen through Terra Nova National Park after a washout caused by last Monday’s storm.
Barter had been attending the Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador annual general meeting in St. John’s and was unable to get back before the storm.
From a hotel room in Clarenville, Barter said she’s seen pictures and video of the damage to the road and had a good idea of what had happened.
Barter said she’d also spoken with the Department of Transportation and Works.
“It could have been a lot worse,” Barter said. “I can picture it, I’ve seen it before.”
Barter said there’s always potential for flooding when the ground is mostly rock and bog as it is in many parts of Newfoundland and as much rain falls as did on Thanksgiving.
“We’ll assess those damages when I get back,” Barter said.
But Barter said the main concern is getting the highway reopened as quickly as possible.
Current estimates from the provincial government are that it could take a week to make the road passable.
“It is challenging,” Barter said. “We need the road open.”
The Burgeo highway has long been a source of troubles due to poor maintenance. Over the summer, Transportation and Works Minister Al Hawkins visited the area with Burgeo-La Poile MHA Andrew Parsons. During their trip to Burgeo, Hawkins damaged a wheel on his vehicle thanks to a pothole.
Barter said she wasn’t surprised when she was told where this most recent problem occurred.
Back in 2014, Barter said a local man recorded some video in the area that showed how the culvert was deteriorating.
“We sent the video to the (Department of Transportation and Works) to ensure that they saw, especially after what happened in Wooden Tilt Brook, to say here’s another potential danger,” Barter said.
In late 2014, a bridge in that area collapsed and was replaced with a bailey bridge. One person was injured in that incident.
Barter is hoping the current situation will push the government toward a multi-year infrastructure program to upgrade roads like the Burgeo Highway.
Only this summer, work was being done to replace several culverts along the road. Barter said people in the community were just starting to feel like the road would finally be in decent shape.
A meeting of the Southwest Coast Joint Council had been scheduled for Burgeo on Oct. 15. Barter said the meeting was deliberately scheduled for that time because it was thought the roadwork would be completed.
Due to the flooding and washout, that meeting was moved to Cape St. George.
Barter also hopes the situation in Burgeo and elsewhere will cause the government to look at creating a system of alternate routes throughout the province.
“It’s not only the secondary routes, but you have places like Terra Nova,” she said. “As one reporter said, there is only one highway right across the province.”
Barter said she’s been advocating for some alternate routes, citing the example of a mid-island route that would connect the Burgeo Highway to Badger.
She said there’s a wood road being maintained, and it needs only minimal upgrades to a gravel road that would give people secondary access.
“It’s not as good, of course, but it’s better than the railroad bed,” Barter said.
Barter said there are plenty of wood roads and rail beds that could be developed.
“You don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” she said.
Burgeo Mayor Barbara Barter