Fleur de Lys residents frustrated over road delays
Residents of Fleur de Lys and Coachman's Cove set up roadblock protests this week, which blocked portions of Highway 410 to traffic for a short time.
© Rudy Norman
Mayor Millie Walsh expresses her frustrations to MHA Kevin Pollard at the roadblock protest near Fleur de Lys on Thursday
An advertised protest took place on Highway 410 on Thursday morning, with several residents from Fleur de Lys and Coachman’s Cove demonstrating near the entrance to the former Advocate Asbestos mine. On Friday and Monday, they moved their protest to include the area near the intersection for Route 414, blocking traffic getting into Baie Verte.
Residents said they were protesting the road conditions of the portion of route 410 leading from Baie Verte to Fleur de Lys. That stretch of highway is in deplorable conditions, according to Millie Walsh, mayor of Fleur de Lys, who was at the protest on Thursday morning and spoke to The Nor’wester.
“It’s just awful,” she said. “People are driving over this road every day, myself included, and we’re just beating up our vehicles because the roads are in such bad shape.”
Walsh says that they’ve heard from MHA Kevin Pollard that there is nearly 4.5 kilometers of pavement slated for the road, but they haven’t heard anything else since the middle of August, when the tenders closed.
“The tenders closed August 15, and the contract was awarded,” said Walsh, “and we haven’t heard a sound about the pavement since. Here we are now, almost at the end of construction season, and there’s still no machinery on the roads doing the pavement.”
MHA Kevin Pollard met with protestors on Thursday, and listened to their concerns, and explained Government’s position.
“I understand and appreciate where they’re coming from,” Pollard said on Friday, following Thursday’s protest. “They’ve been very patient over the years, and I recognize the road is deplorable – it’s easily the worst in my district.”
Pollard says the nearly 4.5km of pavement that was awarded to him this year will be used on Fleur de Lys road, and the contract has in fact been awarded. However, the successful bidder is busy with other work in the province, and he doesn’t feel optimistic that the work on route 410 will be done this season.
“It’s a very unfortunate situation, but we’re really in a rock and a hard place right now,” he said. “I’ve been talking with the Minister, and we’ve been looking at the options. If we retender the work, it’s still unlikely that the work will be done this year, so I don’t see any other options right now.
One of the reasons for the delay, said Pollard was the loss of three weeks of construction during a provincial shut down earlier this year.
“We’re all frustrated with the situation – the Minister included, and I sympathize with the people of Fleur de Lys and Coachman’s Cove, because they’ve been very patient over the years.”
RCMP were on the scene all three mornings to ensure traffic was still allowed to pass through. The protesters resolved that they would not continue their protest on Tuesday and Wednesday, after a public meeting was scheduled with MHA Pollard in Fleur de Lys.
Meanwhile, NDP Transportation and Works critic George Murphy issued a press release on the issue, and says the situation could have been resolved if Government hadn’t called the tender so late. He feels their lack of foresight is to blame.
“The people have blocked access to roads in the area because of the problems they see in the timing in getting their roadwork done,” Murphy said in the release. “If government had a multi-year plan for roads, it could tender work earlier in the year, giving construction companies the opportunity to plan better for the year.”
Murphy says the plan he would like to see is one similar to that of Nova Scotia.
“The province of Nova Scotia has a road construction program that is available to all taxpayers that displays a scheduled roadwork program via the government website,” he said. “Taxpayers then know when road work will be performed.”
According to the same NDP Release, in April of this year, Murphy brought to the House of Assembly a private member’s motion calling for an advanced transportation strategy. All government members voted against the idea.