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Opposition says government ignoring dangerous road conditions

A photo provided to the Opposition Tories shows the crumbling Stoney River Bridge.
A photo provided to the Opposition Tories shows the crumbling Stoney River Bridge.

The Opposition is lashing out at Premier Dwight Ball’s government, accusing the Liberals of neglecting people’s cries to improve road conditions in the province.

“In various parts of our province, the Ball government is ignoring deplorable road conditions,” Transportation and Works critic Barry Petten stated in a news release Tuesday.

“Local residents are expressing concern that it’s placing the lives of the motoring public in jeopardy.”

Petten said Transportation Minister Steve Crocker is failing to fulfil one of his core mandates to make major roadways safe. He said basic upgrades such as pothole repair, shouldering and routine maintenance are being disregarded.

He said the Liberals “boasted” of a summer maintenance program, but that throughout the summer road conditions continued to be challenging in many areas of the province. He said nighttime work, which was expected over the summer months, started in late September and he’s demanding to know why.

“The motoring public should not have to bear the consequences of dysfunction at the government level in evaluating and correcting dangerous road conditions,” Petten stated.

“If the public works officials are stretched beyond their capacity and lack the equipment and personnel, the minister has an obligation to hire staff and get the work done as quickly as possible.

“Road work needs to be completed before winter comes to ensure the roads get the attention they need.”

He said the Transportation Department has released a prioritized list of roads earmarked for work this year, but it has refused to show the rankings of roads that were not earmarked for work this year. He said it’s also slow in getting to some of the work earmarked for completion in the current year. 

“It’s imperative for the provincial Transportation and Works minister to ensure dangerous stretches of road are repaired without any further delay before something tragic happens,” he stated.

He said one such location of concern is a stretch of the Irish Loop between Trepassey and Peter’s River.

Keith Hutchings, the PC MHA for Ferryland District, said the stretch of the Irish Loop from Trepassey to the St. Shott’s Junction is severely potholed and extremely poor for driving. The Stony River Bridge (or Mutton Bay Bridge) at the entrance to Trepassey is seriously eroded, and some of the railing has plunged into the river. 

Hutchings said was inspected in February 2015 and scheduled for rehabilitation.

“Why did the repairs not take place?” Hutchings said. “Why is the bridge not included in the department’s five-year program when it was scheduled to be repaired within a year in 2015?

Hutchings said while the Irish Loop is one of the province’s major tourist destinations, promoted heavily in the government’s official literature, “significant stretches of this major thoroughfare are not fit to drive over.”

He said for more than six months since the spring melt, severe potholes, bridge erosion and rutting along many kilometres have been ignored.

 “People are afraid it’s only a matter of time before they lead to a tragedy that’s entirely avoidable,” Hutchings said.

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