Road to prosperity?

Jonathan Russell
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As businesses brace for heavier traffic thanks to the Trans-Labrador Highway, they are trying to temper their expectations. They've been down this route before

Business owners from Lodge Bay to Port Hope Simpson are cautiously watching the Trans-Labrador Highway (TLH) progress before they decide whether or not to expand.

The stretch of highway will connect the southeast coast to Goose Bay.

Garland Pye, co-owner of Mona's Place in Lodge Bay, walks into the front part of the building, which was built as a restaurant.

At left, Lydia Penney, owner of P&K Sports/Automotive in Port Hope Simpson, poses in front of her business, which she hopes will be positively affected by the road connecting southeastern Labrador to Goose Bay at the end of the year. Right, Mona and Garla

Lodge Bay -

Business owners from Lodge Bay to Port Hope Simpson are cautiously watching the Trans-Labrador Highway (TLH) progress before they decide whether or not to expand.

The stretch of highway will connect the southeast coast to Goose Bay.

Garland Pye, co-owner of Mona's Place in Lodge Bay, walks into the front part of the building, which was built as a restaurant.

Now, years after he added onto the building, the lights are shut off and the restaurant is being used as a storage room.

This is what happened last time, Pye said, his arms outstretched.

He is referring to 2001, when the road connecting Red Bay to Cartwright was built.

With the promise of heavier traffic flow, Mona's Place - like a lot of businesses along that part of the TLH - took a chance and expanded.

In 2003, when the Bond - the ferry connecting Goose Bay, Cartwright and Lewisporte - stopped going to the island, the traffic became heavy, Pye said. But in 2004, when the provincial government created another route for traffic with the ferry to Lewisporte, business suffered.

"We were encouraged to do it; everyone on this coast knew that the infrastructure wasn't here," he said of expansion.

He doesn't put all blame on the government, though, because he says he should have known it was an investment too big for the area.

"But at that time, they came down here and said the infrastructure's not in place for a new road, and we went out on a limb, and a long limb, and put this here. ... I'm not saying this restaurant would have survived, it probably wouldn't have, but they still did that - that took a lot of the traffic away."

Roxanne Notley, executive director of the Southeastern Aurora Development Corp., said they are looking to work with businesses to restore confidence, so that when traffic increases, businesses will be prepared.

Elaine Rumbolt, manager of the Riverlodge Hotel in Mary's Harbour, agrees that restoring confidence is Step 1.

"Nobody is going to do anything now. Everybody's just waiting now to see what's going to happen; but they need to restore confidence in the people," she said.

"I don't have a clue where to start, where to prepare or how to prepare, especially if there's a big influx of people. Staffing, recruitment and retention in a small community like this is a major problem."

It's too early to invest in expansion now, she added, because circumstances surrounding the connection of the TLH remain unclear.

"Businesses on the coast have been struggling for so long, and then you're going to get this increase in traffic? You've been struggling for the last three years, where are you going to get the money to improve? You almost got to wait."

Lydia Penney, owner of P&K Sports/Automotive in Port Hope Simpson, said when the TLH first opened, Penney moved her business from town to the side of the highway in anticipation of increased traffic.

"We got ready the last time," she said with a laugh. "We built a bigger building, a bigger shop. We had a little store in town; if we knew the ferry was going to be going back to Lewisporte, we definitely wouldn't have moved here."

Back then, she was planning to add showers for truck drivers. Now, she said, motorists are so rushed trying to reach the ferry in time, they don't stop at her shop for long.

"Most of the businesses did get ready; the hotel expanded, the Midway Restaurant expanded, all those places expanded," Penney said.

"A lot of businesses did expand because of the road coming through, and we assumed the increased traffic. It increased somewhat, but not enough to what we did expand to."

Organizations: Trans-Labrador Highway, Southeastern Aurora Development, Riverlodge Hotel

Geographic location: Goose Bay, Lewisporte, Port Hope Simpson Red Bay Mary's Harbour

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