Local leaders not satisfied with roads in Placentia-St. Mary’s
Since Placentia's Wayne Power stepped into his role as the town's mayor, he has been upfront about his concern with the state of provincial roads in his region.
"Roads have become deplorable," he recently told The Compass. "Very little maintenance is being done."
MHA for Placentia-St. Mary's, Felix Collins, has had similar concerns for a decade.
"No doubt whatsoever that the biggest issue I have in the district is road conditions," he explained. "They are all rapidly deteriorating."
Both men agree the maintenance of the road is an uphill battle.
"We need to see the province make an investment in the roads to make an improvement, and not be a Band-Aid cover-up," Power said.
Collins knows tens of millions of dollars have gone into the region in recent years, including the new lift bridge in Placentia, but he said the roads are falling to the wayside because there is no additional funds available for extra projects.
"It's not a question of the amount of money the Department of Transportation and Works puts into a road system," Collins explained. "They put more money into our district (than any other)."
Some of the rough roads in the Placentia region include the Freshwater access road, the main road through Ferndale, Jerseyside Hill, Castle Rock Hill, the main road in Dunville and Beach Road. The Placentia to Collinet access road is already receiving upgrades.
There are four work depots that service provincial roads and highways - Whitbourne, Placentia, St. Brides and St. Joseph's. Right now, all are in operation for the winter season.
Ever since 2003, the Placentia depot and the one in St. Brides shuts down in late April until October, when winter preparations start up again. The Whitbourne depot covers from Placentia to Heart's Content during that time.
Sherry Gambin-Walsh, the region's Liberal candidate for the upcoming provincial election, worries that not having the additional depots open is taking its toll on the roads.
"The real problem with the roads lies in the fact summer maintenance is neglected," she said. "It's a huge district with a large coverage area. Potholes are simply (the result) of what we see. It's the result of closing the two depots."
Collins agreed that there is not enough road maintenance done in the summer, and having the depot in Placentia shut down is a hindrance.
"I've been advocating for the opening of the Placentia depot," he explained. "But what it boils down to is the financials on how best to spend (the) money."
Power would also like the depot reopened in the summer months. Although all three community leaders want to see the depots up and running year-round, Collins doesn't believe it will happen in 2015.
The issue of deteriorating roads is not isolated to the Placentia Bay area. In fact, anyone who takes the Trans Canada Highway in eastern Newfoundland towards St. John's will notice the ruts that have appeared after a few years of wear and tear.
Collins takes the TCH regularly, and sees the damage. Asphalt isn't holding up the way it used to.
Gambin-Walsh would like answers to why the roads are not holding up like they have previously. She noted the main road in Argentia, which was paved over 40 years ago, and is still in good shape.
"We never got a clear answer to why it's deteriorating so quickly," she said.
But Placentia's damage means more than just a rough road. For those in the region, the roads are used to access a doctor's office, a grocery story, a pharmacy and many other places that those in urban places take for granted.
"People recognize the fact that you're not going to put plants, doctor's clinics or big department stores in their area," Collins explained. "The people here say, 'we don't mind going outside the area, just get us a half decent road to drive on.'"
There are 540 kilometres of road in Placentia-St. Mary's, most of it rural.
Collins has submitted proposals for road upgrades to government for budget consideration.
Power is also hoping the government can invest in the roads. He's receiving complaints from locals on a regular basis.
"Residents are starting to get frustrated now with the state the roads are in," he said. "You avoid one pothole, and you hit another."
Gambin-Walsh applauded the government for the money they've put in to the bigger projects, including getting bridges up to standard and supplying the public with the reports. She wants to see the same thing happen with roads.
When the budget is brought down in the coming weeks, Placentia-St. Mary's will learn the fate of their roads, and Collins is hoping to see some progress before his retirement from politics this fall.
"The roads have always been a big concern for me, and they will be one of the biggest regrets I'll have," Collins admitted. "We've received some high monetary items, but that doesn't manifest itself in asphalt."