Joe Dunford, assistant deputy minister for the department, attended the March 23 Conception Bay North Joint Council meeting, held in Brigus. Joint council sent a letter to Transportation and Works Minister Al Hawkins following its previous meeting in Harbour Grace, where a lot of discussion about Route 75 took place.
"In recent years, numerous fatalities and other serious motor-vehicle accidents have occurred on Route 75," the joint council wrote in a letter signed by chairman Gordon Power. "The primary cause of these accidents was speed, and in some cases a lack of passing lanes. Route 75 is highly travelled by commuters and others every day, and near misses and accidents are common place."
While it might be a well-travelled highway, traffic on Route 75 does not apparently meet the standards for necessitating passing lanes. Dunford said the national standard set by the Transportation Association of Canada is 10,000 vehicles per day. According to Dunford, Veterans Memorial Highway has in the vicinity of 5,000-6,000 vehicles accessing it daily.
"It doesn't quite meet the threshold for passing lanes, but there are certainly other things we can do if you do feel there are safety issues there or issues that you think need to be addressed or I think that should be addressed," he said, noting it could be worthwhile to discuss the matter with local RCMP detachments. He said a traffic safety audit handled by his department is one such option that could be looked at.
Joint council treasurer George Simmons, who is also a retired RCMP officer, was surprised by the figures given by Dunford on traffic and questioned whether they reflect current traffic volume.
Dunford said he was not sure of the exact year for those numbers, suggesting they could originate from anywhere within the last three-to five years. He indicated the department could look at getting a new traffic count for Veterans Memorial Highway completed within the next two months.
Government will start some mill and fill work this year on the highway, and Dunford expects that will continue into 2018 and beyond. Gordon Power expressed his frustration with the lack of funds for other provincial roads over the duration of the department's recently released five-year plan.
Dunford noted the plan only covers a portion of the work that will be completed over the next five years. For example, in the current 2017-18 fiscal year, the province has outlined 100 per cent of the work planned. That figure drops to 75 per cent for the next one and continues to drop for subsequent fiscal years, with only 25 per cent of spending earmarked for each of the final two.
"The beautiful thing about that is it does provide us with flexibility for emerging issues in a region," he said. "As we role through the plan, we will update each year accordingly."
Harbour Grace Mayor Terry Barnes was adamant that the department needed to fix up the Conception Bay Highway through his town. The road, known as Harvey Street, is "getting worse," with Barnes adding council hears about it every day from residents.
"It's getting ridiculous," he said.