A growing concern

Adam Randell
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Labrador Straits residents call on government to fix highway

There is a growing outcry amongst residents of the Labrador Straits on the condition of the paved highway.

High school student April James severely damaged her car in an accident last March. She blames the accident on a pothole that caused her to hit the ice and flip the vehicle. According to James, government must upgrade the highway in the Labrador Straits soon as someone will eventually seriously be hurt in an accident such as this.

Last week, the Northern Pen reported on the differing political outlooks from Cartwright-L’Anse-au-Clair MHA Lisa Dempster and Minister of Transportation and Works Nick McGrath on the conditions of the Trans-Labrador Highway in Southern Labrador.

But, meanwhile, there are residents living in the area who are voicing their concerns.

Back in March, L’Anse-au-Clair resident and high-schooler April James was driving to school in L’Anse-au-Loup to get her books. Just over Crow Head, a hill just past Forteau, she hit one of the many potholes that pepper the road. From there, she slid to the other side of the road, on the ice, and her car hooked in and flipped. Fortunately, she was okay but she estimates that damages to the car cost over 3,000 dollars.

“The windshield was broken, the top of my roof was squat to pieces, my front fender was broke, and there were dents on the side of my door,” she says.

James has been in contact with both Labrador MP Yvonne Jones and Cartwright-L’Anse-au-Clair MHA Lisa Dempster on the situation with the roads.

She has expressed to them the belief that nothing is going to be done unless someone gets hurt.

“There were, like, five or six accidents in the run of two weeks once and no one is doing anything,” she says. “It’s only going to become a big deal once someone gets hurt.”

Her mother Lorellie, and one of the teachers at the school, have been two of many to also experience busted tires on the highway.

There has recently been coal patch put on the highway but James, like many others, only sees it as a temporary fix.

Vernon Buckle of Forteau says it’s just a band-aid on something that requires open heart surgery.

As an ambulance driver who has to cover the highway from Red Bay to L’Anse-au-Clair, Buckle is very familiar with the conditions of the road and it becomes especially treacherous at the high speeds required of an ambulance driver.

He says that getting patients safely from point A to point B is not always easy with the highway in such poor condition.

“There are some nights when we’ve had to go to Red Bay and back and unless you’re super vigilant on the road, you’re going to hit a pothole.”

“You got to be all over the road,” he continues, expressing further frustration. “We’ve got an attendant that can’t wear a seatbelt because he’s taking care of the patient in the back of the ambulance and I’ve got to swerve to miss a pothole. And I don’t like to hit potholes like anyone else but most of the time, you’ve got to go through one if there’s a vehicle coming the other way.”

While the swerving and hard knocks from hitting potholes, has made life difficult for Buckle and ambulance attendants, he’s been fortunate in that he hasn’t had any busted tires or accidents thus far. Nonetheless, the concern is certainly there. Maybe tomorrow, he says, something like that could happen.

“Right now there’s a safety issue here with school buses and ambulances trying to operate on roads that are unsafe to be on.”

Buckle also questions why the government will be paving the road from Goose Bay to Cartwright Junction first when, he believes, with the ferry landing in Blanc-Sablon, Quebec, that there is a greater deal of non-commercial traffic in this area.

“Why are they starting it on that end when most of the commuter traffic is between here and Port Hope Simpson?” he asks. “How many commuter vehicles are there between Cartwright Junction and Goose Bay, apart from commercial? I would say it’s a small percentage of traffic of people who have to use the road every day. Why not start here and go the other direction?”

Buckle said he has gotten in contact with MHA Yvonne Jones on this matter.

While government has not committed to upgrading the road anytime soon, it doesn’t appear local voices will be stopped from speaking out any time soon.

Organizations: Trans-Labrador Highway

Geographic location: Southern Labrador, L’Anse-au-Loup, Red Bay Goose Bay Blanc-Sablon Quebec Port Hope Simpson

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