State of N.L.’s high­ways is shocking

The Pilot - - Editorial - Michael Ed­wards N.L. na­tive now liv­ing in Rothe­say, N.B.

On Sun­day June 3 my wife and I drove from East­port to Port Aux Basques af­ter a fam­ily visit to east­ern New­found­land.

The snow be­tween Gan­der and Spring­dale was a sur­prise. But it wasn’t nearly the prob­lem that the con­di­tion of the pave­ment was in that area. It made last Sun­day’s drive one of the scari­est of my life.

The sec­tion of high­way be­tween Gan­der and Spring­dale is in the most dan­ger­ous con­di­tion of any I’ve en­coun­tered in more that 50 years of driv­ing on four con­ti­nents (in­clud­ing some hairy driv­ing in Kazak­stan!).

Stand­ing wa­ter re­sult­ing from poorly main­tained, rut­ted, driv­ing sur­faces made it im­pos­si­ble to avoid hy­droplan­ing at any­thing over 60 to 70 kms/hr. That’s some­thing New­found­land’s pro­fes­sional en­gi­neers surely would not cer­tify as be­ing fit for pur­pose and not an ac­cept­able standard of high­way safety any­where, but es­pe­cially not a class one high­way that is a life­line for New­found­lan­ders and visi­tors alike.

I man­aged to keep con­trol of my car by driv­ing on the ridges be­tween the ruts. But in do­ing so I met on­com­ing traf­fic do­ing ex­actly the same thing. The wall of wa­ter thrown up in both di­rec­tions meant heart-stop­ping zero vis­i­bil­ity and loss of steer­ing when meet­ing any traf­fic.

I re­al­ize that main­tain­ing pub­lic in­fra­struc­ture is costly and New­found­land is strug­gling to address a bur­den­some debt. But there can be no greater fail­ure of any gov­ern­ment than to let a real pub­lic safety hazard, as se­vere as the one posed by the con­di­tion of the TCH, per­sist over such a long pe­riod (I had a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence eight years ago when I last drove across the Is­land).

Not only has the gov­ern­ment not kept up main­te­nance, there are no warn­ing signs in the worst ar­eas and sec­tions of high­way. In their cur­rent state of dis­re­pair these should be closed when there is any sig­nif­i­cant wa­ter on the road.

N.L. has great tourism ads. I’m home­sick each time I see one. But af­ter that har­row­ing drive, I know that I can choose to stay away un­til the prob­lem is fixed. But what about my grand­daugh­ter, her par­ents and their fam­ily and friends who have to cope rou­tinely with un­rea­son­ably dan­ger­ous driv­ing con­di­tions? What about the count­less tourists who as­sume wrongly that driv­ing here is with­out any ex­tra­or­di­nary risk?

Gov­ern­ment has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­tect us and it is fail­ing to do that. So New­found­lan­ders and visi­tors alike have a right to know when the high­way will be made safe for pub­lic use.

Trans­porta­tion Min­is­ter Steve Min­is­ter Crocker and the pre­mier should get it fixed be­fore more lives are lost and New­found­land and Labrador gains a rep­u­ta­tion that’s not in keep­ing with its im­age as a great place in which to live, do busi­ness or visit.

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