Out of time

Juris Graney
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The bright yellow warning sign midway down Route 432 says ‘Rough Road for 20km', but many believe it should be repainted to read ‘Rough Surface for the next seven months'.

The bright yellow warning sign midway down Route 432 says ‘Rough Road for 20km', but many believe it should be repainted to read ‘Rough Surface for the next seven months'.

Last week public works minister Tom Hedderson confirmed the worst news for those who use the busy thoroughfare between Roddickton and Plum Point - that the planned repaving of a 3.8km stretch of the cross country road will not take place now until next June.

Despite the $775,000 contract being awarded to Humber Valley Paving in August and a contracted completion date set for October 31, no work has begun on the project.

Reticent to give specifics as to why the work was not complete, Mr. Hedderson pointed to poor weather and "other circumstances" but did not elaborate on what those were.

"They gave it their best efforts but couldn't complete it," he told the Pen.

"As part of our agreement we said ‘no.' Rather than force the issue and perhaps put down inferior pavement, we would prefer they wait until the spring.

"There was a fair scope of work to be done and they ran out of time. They are under contract to get it done. It will get done.

"We are as disappointed as you are because when we put out work we want it finished because I want to be able to move on."

The news was not well-received by commuters who travel the 53km between the two towns or the businesses that rely on passing traffic.

Some residents the Pen spoke to further up along the Straits said if they needed to go to Roddickton or the eastern side of the peninsula, they preferred to take the northern part of Route 430 near St. Anthony rather than risk damage to their cars over the broken pavement.

Bird Cove mayor Richard May said it was not only deplorable that the work wouldn't be completed this year, but also that only 3.8km of road would be repaved.

"The condition of this road makes it hard on those people who beat up their cars every day," he said.

"I think it definitely plays a role in whether people want to accept jobs because they have to factor in the damage that will undoubtedly happen to the cars or trucks and that becomes a big chunk of their income.

"From an economic development view point, this has big implications on businesses that need to travel that road."

Mr. Hedderson said that in any given year as much as 20 per cent of the almost $500 million public works contracts awarded for road improvements could be held over until the following year.

He said this year, with hurricane Igor repairs taking precedent, some companies may have crushed more than they could lay.

"Some of these companies involved in these projects, in some cases they took on a little bit too much work and couldn't complete it," he said.

"We work with them and make sure that if they are taking jobs they should complete them."

And although regular commuters and transport businesses that use the road will be disadvantaged, Mr. Hedderson said that on the bright side, work would begin as soon as winter breaks.

"They are crushing stone for the project as we speak so they'll be out of the gates early as they can," he said.

"The advantage is the tender's out and the work will be done. It's better than some of the roads that people don't know when they will be done.

"This job is in the hopper. It will be done."

It's little consolation for those who, on a daily basis, must navigate through more than 20km of deteriorated pavement.

Mr. May said that three years ago the cross country road was one of the best on the peninsula.

"But now look at it," he said.

"Every spring the road breaks up more and more, and yet only 3.8km of it is worthy of repaving? It's laughable.

"It's the second most important route on the Northern Peninsula in my mind and more than half of it needs to be completely replaced."

Mr. Hedderson however said it was all about priorities.

"When we look at the budgeting we look at the whole province," he said. "We have priorities like everything else and that was the amount I was able to offer that particular project."

"Naturally the cross country (road) is indeed important in that particular area.

"We've spent millions of dollars making sure the main roads on the Northern Peninsula are up to scratch and now we are setting our sights on auxiliary roads and, in this particular case, the cross country is well used and the quicker that we get to it the better for all."

MHA for The Straits-White Bay North, the NDP's Christopher Mitchelmore, said he understood and agreed it was the right decision not to pave now, but said people living on either end of Route 432 were under a serious disadvantage just because of where they lived.

"When the government releases its budget next year I will be pushing for that road to get additional funding for paving as well as more roadwork for Conche," he said.

"That needs to be given priority as well to start placing a focus on government to reduce gravel roads in its inventory.

"I would like to see those two roads given priority for paving because it's so important in developing local economy in those regions.

MHA for St. Barbe, the Liberal's Jim Bennett, could not be reached for comment last week.


Organizations: NDP

Geographic location: Roddickton, Rough Road, Plum Point St. Anthony Northern Peninsula

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