Minister says short construction season, lack of workers lead to challenges in Transportation
The Provincial Minister of Transportation and Works says not all the issues with road work in the province is related to lack of money – but rather, he cites a number of factors that contribute to delays and hang-ups that leave residents frustrated with the issues at hand.
© Photo by Rudy Norman
Newly appointed Minister of Transportation, Nick McGrath, was in Baie Verte this week to kick off Small Business week with the Baie Verte and Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as a number of other things relating to his new portfolio.
McGrath pulled into Baie Verte on his eighth day on the job, and thanked those in attendance for the opportunity to speak at a luncheon hosted by the Chamber at the College of the North Atlantic campus.
McGrath, who was formerly the Minister of Service NL and the Minister responsible for Workplace Health and Safety and Compensation Commission, was also in the community back in April to announce the Baie Verte Miner’s Registry. He reiterated this week that he was still familiar with the area, and remembered his previous trip well.
The visit by the Minister comes at a time when a number of concerns have been raised relating to Transportation in the region. Residents of Fleur de Lys staged a number of protests over recent weeks when it was learned that their promised 4.45 kilometers of pavement won’t be coming this year after all, because of scheduling conflicts with the company who was awarded the contract.
In addition to that, public meetings held in Burlington regarding the brush on route 413 were also a hot-button issue of late.
McGrath, while new to the portfolio, said he was well aware of the concerns in the region, and committed to finding solutions.
“While I am very new to the Department of Transporation and Works,” McGrath told the audience assembled, “I am here to reassure you that your voices have been heard and we will continue the conversation so as to get the work that needs to be done, done, as soon as we can make it happen.”
The Minister said the Provincial Government has invested $37.2 million dollars in road work alone since 2004 in the Baie Verte-Springdale district, however he stated, money isn’t the only factor in getting work done on the province’s highways.
“Reality, of course, is we have a short construction season here in the province and each year it is important that we maximize budgets and projects within this short window of time.”
That short construction season was the apparent downfall, recently, when paving on Fleur de Lys road was postponed until the spring. McGrath addressed the issue for the crowd.
“It’s quite common to have construction work carry over from the fall to the spring or summer of the following year,” he explained. “This year, due to circumstances beyond our control, a number of tender contracts extended beyond our usual timeframe, with some tenders – as is the case with the Fleur de Lys road project – closing in late August.”
McGrath says Government still has the full commitment of the contractor who was awarded the contract that the work will be completed in the spring.
McGrath also highlighted other activity that’s going on in the region, including the awarded tender for Brush cutting of route 413, guide rail repairs on La Scie Highway, and other maintenance to the roadways.
After his remarks, the Minister took questions from the audience, and in response to a question from Baie Verte Mayor, Clar Brown, revealed that another problem Government has is a lack of contractors and workers in the province who can carry out the necessary maintenance of the province’s highways.
“It isn’t just about money,” said the Minister. “There are a number of factors that come into play, and its always a challenge.”
MHA Kevin Pollard says while the Minister was in his district, he was sure to show him the conditions of the roads and had an opportunity to meet with members of some communities.
“The Minister is well aware of the concerns I and the residents have,” he said, “and I’m confident that we can continue to work together to accomplish what needs to be done.”