Looking at the hole problem on Highroad North

Potholes causing headaches for drivers entering Carbonear

Melissa Jenkins melissa.jenkins@tc.tc
Published on April 29, 2014
The access road to Carbonear through Highroad North has numerous potholes that have deteriorated so much, vehicles are completely avoiding that section of the road.
Photo by Melissa Jenkins

A boundary dispute has developed between the Town of Carbonear and the province’s Department of Transportation and Works over a deteriorating road at the town’s north entrance.

Those who have driven Highroad North over the past year would have noticed the evergrowing potholes developing in the asphalt on a section of road roughly 100 metres long.

Some drivers have said it resembles a minefield, and they want it fixed.

Town administrator Cynthia Davis and Brian O’Grady, director of public works, stated during the April 22 regular town council meeting the section of road is not within town boundaries.

The Department of Transportation and Works disagrees. In an email to The Compass, department spokesperson Scott Barfoot said the responsibility of maintaining the road is that of the town.

“Departmental officials have had discussions with the municipality on Highroad North. The most recent communication was in fall 2013. Highroad North is not a provincial road — as such, the Department of Transportation and Works is not responsible for the winter or summer maintenance of it,” Barfoot wrote.

A map of the municipality received from the Department of Municipal Affairs tells a different story.

The colour-coded map shows the town shaded in brown. The road damage is outside it, beginning at the intersection with Route 70.

Route 70 is maintained by the government, and in winter, department heavy equipment operators plow it.

In the policy manual for transportation and works winter maintenance operations, it states:

“The Department of Transportation and Works Roads Transportation Branch has full responsibility for snow clearing and ice control on all public highways not included under the jurisdiction of municipalities, other government departments, federal departments or authorities or any lawful authority and private owned roads. Priority of service is to TCH, school bus routes and turnarounds during days schools are operational, main highways, secondary highways and local roads in that order.”

Road barely drivable

Coun. Brenda Trickett discussed the stretch during the meeting, noting she received several complaints about car damage and unsafe driving conditions.

It is common to witness vehicles swerving to miss the large, deep holes. But lately there have been accounts of motorists driving on the narrow dirt-covered shoulder.

“The shoulder is better than the road,” Trickett stated.

Town officials sent photos of the road and a copy of the boundaries to the department last fall.

There are no houses beyond those boundaries on Highroad North, but there is a storage facility and ditches on each side of the road.

Town maintenance

Town workers have patched some of the really bad potholes this year. However, the patch hasn’t held, and holes are bigger than before.

Starting at the boundary most potholes are either patched or asphalt replaced. Once past it, all the holes are too large to do a temporary fix.

The town’s heavy equipment operators have plowed the road this winter to allow access for local traffic and ambulances, but only if the provincial operators hadn’t completed them. Barfoot confirmed this. “In winter, the Town of Carbonear plows down to the intersection of Highroad North and Route 70 and in the summer it has placed some asphalt in potholes that formed,” he said.

O’Grady stands by the decision to have his workers do what needed to be done if the government refused to maintain the road. But he said it was for the safety of residents travelling the road, and not intended as a permanent fix.

He explained town officials would keep working towards having the provincial government fix the road, because it can no longer be patched. It must now be replaced.

Davis said she would contact them again for an update.

O’Grady did confirm seasonal workers have been called back to work to fix potholes in the rest of the town, but would not be fixing the Highroad North section.

Avoiding potholes

A Compass reporter drove to the road April 25 to see how drivers were getting around the potholes.

Most pulled into the opposite lane to pass them, while a pickup truck slowed down to go through them.

One vehicle came to a dead stop to wait for oncoming traffic before going around them.

A driver pulled over to ask if the reporter had damaged her car driving over the deteriorated road.

“Something needs to be done,” the female driver exclaimed.