High­way fenc­ing not cost-ef­fec­tive

For­mer deputy min­is­ter tells class-ac­tion trial price tag more than dou­ble of New Brunswick

The Southern Gazette - - NEWS - BY MACKEN­ZIE SCRIMSHAW TC ME­DIA

Fenc­ing the Trans-Canada High­way to help re­duce moose-ve­hi­cle collisions was not cost-ef­fec­tive, said a deputy min­is­ter for the New­found­land and Labrador Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion and Labour.

Robert Smart, a for­mer deputy min­is­ter and a wit­ness for the provin­cial govern­ment, tes­ti­fied dur­ing the class-ac­tion law­suit in­volv­ing moose-ve­hi­cle collisions at the Supreme Court of New­found­land in St. John’s Apr. 14.

He said af­ter con­sult­ing with the govern­ment of New Brunswick on its project, and com­par­ing the costs that prov­ince paid to fig­ures rel­a­tive to the needs of this prov­ince, it was de­cided high­way fenc­ing was not worth the in­vest­ment.

New Brunswick paid $70,000 per kilo­me­tre to erect wildlife fenc­ing on one side of a high­way. There, the con­cern is pri­mar­ily deer - not moose - so, “we would have prob­a­bly had to have more sub­stan­tial fenc­ing,” Mr. Smart said.

Es­ti­mates showed it would cost $150,000 per kilo­me­tre to fence both sides of the high­way.

The prov­ince has 9,000 kilo­me­tres of high­way, but for “il­lus­tra­tive pur­poses,” pro­jected the cost for only 500 kilo­me­tres, or roughly five per cent of the to­tal sur­face area at $75 mil­lion.

This fig­ure did not in­clude un­der­passes or over­passes, which could cost be­tween $1 and $3 mil- lion each.

Ad­di­tion­ally, New Brunswick was strug­gling to keep wildlife from wan­der­ing around the breaks in the fence or through its gates, which people were leav­ing open.

This was likely to be the case in New­found­land, Mr. Smart said, where provin­cial roads in­ter­sect with pub­lic and pri­vate exit points.

“We were not con­vinced that fenc­ing would be ef­fec­tive in our ju­ris­dic­tion.”

Mr. Smart ac­knowl­edged an­other rea­son that fenc­ing wasn’t pur­sued had to do with which depart­ment would be re­spon­si­ble for it.

In an email cor­re­spon­dence, for­mer min­is­ter of trans­porta­tion and works John Hickey ex­pressed an in­ter­est in launch­ing a pi­lot fenc­ing project, to which Mr. Smart re­sponded, “whether fences would be ef­fec­tive in keep­ing moose off the high­way is some­thing the depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Con­ser­va­tion should per­haps take the lead on.”

Mr. Smart was called to bol­ster the prov­ince’s case that it had not been neg­li­gent in its han­dling of moose collisions from 2003-11. The choice not to fence, he said, was based on cost-ben­e­fit anal­y­sis.

The prov­ince did in­crease the por­tion of its budget al­lo­cated to­ward brush cut­ting from $300,000 in 2005 to $2.3 mil­lion in 2006.

Brush cut­ting is meant to “in­crease the line of sight for driv­ers,’’ Mr. Smart said.

In cross ex­am­i­na­tion, the lawyer for the plain­tiffs chal­lenged Mr. Smart as to whether the depart­ment’s in­vest­ment in brush cut­ting was in fact to re­duce these in­ci­dents.

Mr. Smart rec­og­nized that brush cut­ting could also help drain high­ways and clear roads dur­ing the win­ter, but said brush cut­ting was “driven by the con­cern of moo­seve­hi­cle collisions.”

The prov­ince called a sec­ond wit­ness, Jamie Chip­pett, deputy min­is­ter of En­vi­ron­ment and Con­ser­va­tion, who shed light on the launch of the fenc­ing pi­lot project fol­low­ing a pol­icy change in 2011.

The case was due to wrap up last Wed­nes­day af­ter a fi­nal wit­ness tes­ti­fied for the prov­ince.

St. John’s Tele­gram

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