Bumps in the road

When high­ways are in poor shape, it im­pacts many as­pects of life in New­found­land and Labrador

The Southern Gazette - - Front Page - BY PAUL HERRIDGE MARYSTOWN, N.L.

They’re the glue that keeps the prov­ince run­ning. With­out roads, most ev­ery­thing would come to a stand­still.

Gov­ern­ment-pro­vided ser­vices like health care and ed­u­ca­tion are vi­tal and used by ev­ery­one, Trans­porta­tion and Works Min­is­ter Steve Crocker says, but to vary­ing de­grees.

“The re­al­ity is we all use roads, we all use road in­fra­struc­ture, so it af­fects each and ev­ery one of us ev­ery sin­gle day,” Crocker ac­knowl­edged in a recent tele­phone in­ter­view with SaltWire Net­work.

Roads keep the prov­ince hum­ming, but it’s cer­tainly not a smooth ride for ev­ery­one. Crocker knows that.

“It’s chal­leng­ing, but we’ve made good strides,” he says.

Para­medic con­cerns

Der­rick Dunne, a pri­mary care para­medic and ad­min­is­tra­tive as­sis­tant with Grand Bank/For­tune Am­bu­lance Ser­vice Inc., is acutely aware of the im­por­tance of good roads.

Ma­jor work in two ar­eas of the Burin Penin­sula High­way be­tween For­tune and Grouse, out­side Grand Bank, this sum­mer has made life eas­ier for him and his col­leagues, Dunne says.

There are still some trou­ble spots on the high­way he would like to see fixed though, the area be­tween the turnoffs for French­man’s Cove and Gar­nish be­ing one. A sec­tion of the high­way just past the old dump at Swift Cur­rent is also re­ally bad, he says. An­other one is the bridge near the turn off to North Har­bour. Dunne says the am­bu­lance has to al­most come to a com­plete stop to safely nav­i­gate the bump.

When you’re trav­el­ling in an am­bu­lance over a rough high­way, it’s a safety is­sue, for both pa­tients and health­care prac­ti­tion­ers,

Dunne says.

“All the bounc­ing around and beat­ing around is hard on the pa­tient,” he says, par­tic­u­larly if they have a back in­jury or ab­dom­i­nal emer­gency.

Bumps af­fect car­diac mon­i­tors, as well, and can re­sult in false read­ings when do­ing non­in­va­sive blood pres­sure tests.

“Say if we’re start­ing an IV (in­tra­venous), for ex­am­ple, right. We have to ac­tu­ally get the driver to tell us when they think we got like a 30-sec­ond or a minute spot where there’s no bump,” Dunne says.

“We could never start an IV from For­tune to Grand Bank (be­fore the recent up­grades), I’ll be hon­est with you. If you got one, you were lucky.”

Bad for busi­ness

Boyd Smith, owner of Smith’s Store in the Ran­dom Island com­mu­nity of Pet­ley, says pot­hole­filled roads are bad for busi­ness.

There’s a ma­rina in the town and peo­ple who bring their boats there dur­ing the sum­mer­time visit the store to stock up or use the wash­room. Sales have been way down, how­ever. Smith blames the con­di­tion of the road be­tween Britannia and Pet­ley.

“Our busi­ness re­ally hurt this sum­mer, and last sum­mer, the last two sum­mers,” Smith says. “Why would peo­ple drive up over a bad old road and prob­a­bly wreck springs and stuff when they can go some­where else.”

Smith said the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion and Works filled up some of the pot­holes in the area a cou­ple of weeks ago.

“They came here, filled up a few holes, but said they ran out of ma­te­ri­als and they’d be com­ing back, but they never came back,” he said.

Be­cause some of the pot­holes are filled and oth­ers are not, Smith says its de­ceiv­ing to mo­torists, as was the case with one man he said was at the store re­cently.

“He hit (a pot­hole) af­ter dark, and he busted his rim and punc­tured the tire,” Smith said.

Tourism de­ter­rent

Peo­ple of­ten ask Bur­geo Haven owner Dorim Keep­ing about the con­di­tion of the Bur­geo High­way, so much so it seems al­most as if every­body knows the road is in bad shape, he says.

Keep­ing has owned the bed and break­fast since 2002.

“(The high­way is) def­i­nitely a de­ter­rent, there’s no doubt about it,” he said.

Some peo­ple who re­ally want to visit the com­mu­nity — per­haps have it on their bucket list — will come re­gard­less of the road. Oth­ers, how­ever, will avoid the jour­ney. So­cial me­dia, which def­i­nitely helps tourism, can also hurt it, Keep­ing said.

“You get one or two pot­holes in the road some­where and some­one gets a flat tire, it gets on Face­book,” Keep­ing says.

Keep­ing feels the Bur­geo High­way is not a high pri­or­ity for gov­ern­ment, a “bas­tard child,” to use his words.

“We’ve had bits and pieces fixed up here and there, but on the over­all, they need to come in and put some money out,” he says.

Treated equal

Keep­ing says he would like to see less ex­tremes in the con­di­tions of the roads around the prov­ince. Ev­ery­one should be treated equally, he said.

“Why do we al­ways have to be like a child who is cry­ing out all the time for good roads? That’s the frus­tra­tion. Peo­ple will say, ‘Well, you ought to have seen it last year. You got it good now. There (are) only 1,001 pot­holes,’” Keep­ing said.

“You be­come com­pla­cent af­ter a while. Al­most as if we ac­cept the fact that we’re de­serv­ing of in­ad­e­quate roads.”

With a small pop­u­la­tion and so much high­way in be­tween them, Smith said he un­der­stands the chal­lenges gov­ern­ment faces. Still, he said the roads in his area were kept up pretty good un­til the last cou­ple of years.

“It seems like they haven’t got the money or they’re not spend­ing the money now or what­ever,” he said. “I guess the main high­way nat­u­rally is the main thing and the rest of the by­ways got to put up with the bad roads.”

Dunne knows, too, mak­ing ev­ery­one happy would be im­pos­si­ble.

“But when you’ve got re­ally, re­ally bad sec­tions, they got to start open­ing their eyes up and do­ing some­thing,” he says.

Roads plan

The Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion and Works is in­ter­ested in hear­ing the con­cerns of peo­ple through­out the prov­ince, Crocker says.

In the win­ter of 2017, the depart­ment in­tro­duced its fiveyear provin­cial roads plan, an an­nu­ally up­dated road map of work to be done. Trans­porta­tion and Works Min­is­ter Steve Crocker

The plan is cur­rently in the process of be­ing up­dated and the pub­lic can pro­vide in­put via a form at the en­ga­genl.ca web­site. De­tails of the five-year plan are avail­able on the depart­ment’s web­site.

“It’s very im­por­tant to get to the peo­ple who use the roads,” Crocker said.

Ac­cord­ing to Crocker, 100 per cent of the work to be done in the 2018-19 con­struc­tion sea­son was iden­ti­fied this past Jan­uary, along with 75 per cent for 201920, 50 per cent for 2020-21 and 25 per cent for 2021-22.

The process un­der­way now will up­date ev­ery­thing by 25 per cent, so that all projects for the 2019-20 sea­son will be iden­ti­fied and re­leased in Jan­uary, 75 per cent of projects for 2020-21 will be in place and so on.

The 25 per cent is added based on de­vel­op­ing is­sues, and in­put from en­gi­neers and the pub­lic.

A con­tin­ual plan that looks five years ahead has many ben­e­fits, Crocker says, one be­ing ear­lier ten­der­ing. Money saved this year be­cause ten­ders went out sooner was re-in­vested in projects that would have been done next year, he said. It also helps give the pub­lic a bet­ter idea of when road work is go­ing to be com­pleted in their area.

Main­tain­ing roads is a con­stant strug­gle, Crocker ac­knowl­edges. The con­struc­tion sea­son is short and there is a lot of road to main­tain.

New­found­land and Labrador is also a young prov­ince, Crocker points out, and ma­jor road con­struc­tion and paving re­ally only started in the 1960s.

“A lot of our pave­ment is at the same age, so it’s sort of all of our in­fra­struc­ture is wear­ing at the same time,” he said.


Rain fills a dam­aged sec­tion of the Burin Penin­sula High­way be­tween the Win­ter­land branch and Marystown on Mon­day, Oct. 29, 2018.


De­te­ri­o­ra­tion is ev­i­dent on the road in front of the Pet­ley ma­rina in this file photo from April 2018.

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