State of N.L.’s highways is shocking
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.