Completion of Route 138 and tunnel still being pushed
The Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador is calling for a study on a fixed link.
During their annual general meeting on June 13 in Gander, the party passed a resolution to urge government to update the feasibility study of a fixed link between Labrador and the Island of Newfoundland.
The resolution passed it says in 2004, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador contracted a study to Hatch Mott MacDonald, at which time three basic fixed link concepts were studied. The study determined that a bored tunnel would have the lowest cost and risk. The business case for a fixed link tunnel was considered difficult to justify on the basis of the results of the economic analysis and would require an infusion of public funds. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador concluded that the feasibility for the fixed link was not there.
Since that study, the resolution says, there have been many positive and relevant changes in the business and economic conditions in Newfoundland and Labrador and, therefore, the Liberals are calling for the government to update the study.
Cartwright-L’Anse-au-Clair Liberal MHA Lisa Dempster has been a vocal proponent, calling on the government for a comprehensive full feasibility study. This would include a geological assessment and a full cost analysis.
Dempster believes the potential was there to incorporate the Muskrat Falls sub-sea cable with a vehicle tunnel. That opportunity has now been lost with the cable crossing underneath a berm. She regards it as a “terrible waste”.
She also notes the spoilage and other losses suffered by local businesses with the present ferry service.
Dempster believes the governments would also save money in the long-term.
“The complete feasibility study, which is what I’ve been calling for, would identify the present subsidies being paid by this government, the Quebec government, and the federal government over a 20-year period,” says Dempster. “I believe that it would far exceed the cost of building this infrastructure.”
Long-time advocate still pushing
L’Anse-au-Clair Mayor Nath Moores has long been an advocate for a fixed link connecting the two parts of the province.
Moores is also a member of the Neighbors without Borders coalition. They have conducted a cost analysis which supports Dempster’s claim. They estimate the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador would save approximately two billion dollars over a 20-year period from ferry subsidies.
Moores also notes that the Hatch Mott MacDonald report from 2004 was a pre-feasibility study that recommended a fully feasibility study. This never took place.
He recently wrote a letter to interim premier Tom Marshall requesting that it be conducted
Furthermore, Moores cites the troubles ferries have been experiencing this past winter with ice conditions and with high winds as well. These problems can be circumvented with a fixed link
Completing Quebec’s Route 138
The other key aspect to connecting Newfoundland and Labrador directly to the rest of the country hinges on the completion of Quebec’s Route 138.
The ability to have traffic flowing directly from Newfoundland, to Labrador, and through Quebec is also important to the residents of the Quebec Lower North Shore.
St. Augustine, Quebec mayor Glen McKinnon has a vested interest in seeing the completion of both Route 138 and a fixed link.
He has been in contact with Moores to discuss the matter.
Moores has suggested that if Quebec completes a road to access a different province, then the completion of Route 138 and a fixed link become a federal responsibility. This is supported by McKinnon’s recent findings.
McKinnon, the warden for MRC du Golfe-du-Saint-Laurent (which covers from Kagaska to Blanc Sablon) discovered that in October 2010, former NL Minister of Transportation and Works Tom Hedderson had wanted to do a joint proposal to the federal government for the completion of 138 and the tunnel across the Strait of Belle Isle.
McKinnon describes both projects as an “act of development”.
“The economy of Quebec is not in the greatest shape,” he says. “But that’s all the more reason projects like 138 and the tunnel should be looked at as tools to spur the economy.”
He says the new Quebec government is presently undergoing an analysis phase and asking local municipal governments to patient. He is very optimistic that they will complete Route 138.
“The 138 is essential as a provincial income generator for the province and I see it as being put on the radar very shortly.”
He says access, via the completion of Route 138 and completion of a fixed link will create opportunities in transport, tourism, and natural resources.
“For me it’s a question of people, provinces working together for the common good,” he declares. “And if we all take a step back and look at the map of the east coast, there is lots of development to be done. We shouldn’t be pulling in opposite directions, we should have a common vision and a common goal for east coast development and a border shouldn’t mean a hell of a lot.”