Union caught off guard by Placentia road upgrades
© Submitted photo
The Southeast Placentia access road will see $1-million worth of upgrades this spring while work is being done on the Placentia lift bridge, which needs repairs.
Assessment and repair work on the Placentia lift bridge is expected to continue for another 10-12 weeks, meaning some heavy vehicles must take the long way into and out of the area until then, according to the Department of Transportation.
A weight restriction of 13,000 kilograms remains in effect for vehicles crossing the bridge until repairs are complete.
Taking note of the fact some drivers of commercial vehicles have been ignoring that restriction, the provincial government has started 24-hour video surveillance at the crossing. In addition, Service NL is continuing spot checks of vehicle weights.
For vehicles too heavy to cross, a secondary route, with a gravel road, is being used to get to and from the Placentia area. When contacted by The Telegram Monday, Minister of Transportation and Works Tom Hedderson acknowledged the secondary route needed some work.
"We now have contractors that will be working on the road - upgrading it with fill and Class A stone to get it up to the standard," Hedderson said.
"We're investing upwards of a million dollars to get that road up to a better standard. And work is going on right now. We've contracted it out, work is ongoing by the contractors, and when they're finished that road will be up to what we consider a good standard."
He said the road was "very dicey the first couple of days," but is satisfied the work is progressing quickly.
Hedderson said he hopes there will be little maintenance required during the first year after the upgrade, due to the level of government investment and the use of proper ditching techniques and good stone.
He added he was "not impressed" by comments made by the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE).
NAPE jumped into discussions on the state of highway infrastructure in the Placentia area, releasing a statement claiming "significant road maintenance" is needed in the coming months.
The union called for the depot in the Placentia area to remain open, to deal with the work. The depot typically closes for the summer season.
"There is a possibility that suppliers of goods and services to the area will refuse to travel over such a gravel road, particularly if highway workers are not left in place to continually upgrade and maintain it," NAPE president Carol Furlong stated.
"Surely, at a time when our province has a booming economy, the people of the province deserve better."
What Furlong apparently didn't know was an upgrade to the secondary route was underway.
"They suggest that the residents of Placentia will be inconvenienced by the closure of the Placentia depot. That's not true. That's simply not true," Hedderson said.
The province regularly transitions work crews from summer to winter and consolidates depot operations accordingly, he said. The next transition is expected to happen around May 1.
Furlong, meanwhile, later told The Telegram she was not aware the province had gone to an independent contractor to upgrade the secondary road.
She questioned the cost associated with the move and said the union will review the matter.