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Change on the way for Veterans Memorial Highway

Transportation and Works assistant deputy minister Joe Dunford draws attention to a map highlighting collision locations on Veteran's Memorial Highway from 2012-2016. — Andrew Robinson/The Compass
Transportation and Works assistant deputy minister Joe Dunford draws attention to a map highlighting collision locations on Veteran's Memorial Highway from 2012-2016. — Andrew Robinson/The Compass

Government proposes to reduce maximum speed near Harbour Grace to 70 km/hr

CLARKE'S BEACH, NL — It appears change is on the way for motorists using Veterans Memorial Highway.

Safety on Route 75 has been a serious concern for years in Conception Bay North, with recent fatalities on the bypass road amplifying calls for measures to prevent accidents.

Transportation and Works Minister Steve Crocker was a special guest at Thursday night's Conception Bay North Joint Council meeting, and brought assistant deputy minister Joe Dunford along with him.

Discussing the stretch of Route 75 near the Jamie's Way turnoff to Harbour Grace, Crocker announced government is willing to reduce the speed limit there from 100 kilometres per hour to 70.

"We're prepared to do that now almost immediately," said the minister, who is also the MHA for Carbonear-Trinity-Bay de Verde.

Among those in attendance Thursday, there appeared to be no objections to the proposal. Harbour Grace chief administrative officer Michael Saccary said the speed limit in that area was an ongoing concern for the municipality.

"It's more so now since the new community centre opened," he said, referencing the Danny Cleary Community Centre that opened on the corner of Route 75 and Jamie's Way in the fall of 2016. "The traffic there now is unbelievable … The fact that you're looking at that now, to change that speed, is a very good start."

Government identified the turnoff to Jamie's Way as one of three collision clusters on Veterans Memorial Highway where a significant concentration of accidents have occurred in recent years. From 2012-2016, 17 accidents were recorded near the Jamie's Way turnoff and 208 in total on Veteran's Memorial Highway.

Bay Roberts RCMP Staff Sgt. Brent Hillier, who also served for several years with the former Trinity-Conception detachment that included Harbour Grace, suggested it would make sense to also reduce the speed limit for the remaining stretch of the highway leading to Carbonear, covering a distance of approximately four kilometres.

"I think the issue you're going to run into when you're going to go from a 70 to 100 to a 70 … you need to be continuous if you're going into Carbonear," he said.

Dunford said government could look at extending the 70 zone further if need be. Carbonear Deputy Mayor Chris O'Grady agreed with the idea of changing the speed limit near Jamie's Way, but he did not believe reducing it all the way to where the 70 zone currently starts made sense.

"You're going to create a big bottleneck here if you slow that down that whole entire way," said O'Grady.

Government identified an additional cluster zone for collisions along the curved stretch of Veterans Memorial just north of the New Harbour Barrens turnoff. Dunford indicated government might look at making changes there.

A passing lane was removed at the third and final collision cluster at Hodgewater Line to eliminate situations where drivers are forced to simultaneously watch for traffic in the oncoming lane and the merging lane heading south.

When Dunford attended a joint council meeting earlier this year, a lot of time was spent discussing the need for three-lane sections on Route 75 to accommodate vehicles looking to safely pass slower drivers. At that time, Dunford noted the national standard for three-lane highways, as set by the Transportation Association of Canada, is 10,000 vehicles per day.

Transportation and Works set up seven traffic counters along the highway for the last two weeks of May and the first week of June. It determined that on average, Veterans Memorial Highway handles just over 7,000 vehicles per day.

"In the past we've seen 5,000 or 6,000, so we are seeing some increased volumes on the route," he said.

SEE RELATED:

'Veterans Memorial Highway isn't the problem, RCMP collision analyst says'

'Not enough traffic for Veterans Memorial Highway passing lanes'

The traffic counters also recorded speeds in both directions. The fastest stretch of Veterans Memorial Highway can be found between Makinsons and Roaches Line, with average speeds of 117 km/hr (south) and 118 (north). On the opposite side of the spectrum for areas within the 100 km/hr speed zone was the section between North River and Bay Roberts, where average recorded speeds ranged from 91 (south) to 104 (north).

editor@cbncompass.ca

Collisions on Route 75:

• 2012 — 31

• 2013 — 40

• 2014 — 40

• 2015 — 53

• 2016 — 44

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