Traffic congestion and haphazard parking related to the Bell Island ferry is causing a whopping headache for some in Portugal Cove.
“This goes back years. Transportation has really shown a total disregard for the people of Portugal Cove,” said Jock Stewart, whose Harding’s Hill house overlooks the ferry terminal and the picturesque harbour.
But for Stewart, there’s nothing pretty about cars left parked all over the breakwater, wharf and road, causing congestion and clogging up residents’ access to the highway.
“There’s an attitude in Transportation that ‘We know what we are doing and don’t even suggest anything to us,’ ” Stewart said.
He said an attempt to create two lanes and installation of concrete barricades has worsened the problem because it’s not properly set up.
“For me it’s the safety issue. You go down there and even though they are parked, people get out of their cars and they stand right in front where you’re supposed to go through and they won’t move,” added his wife Doreen Stewart about the road to the ferry terminal/wharf.
The only other way out of that section of town is Loop Drive — or what’s known as the rock cut — which is too dangerous because of sight issues, Doreen Stewart said.
“There will be a fatal accident someday no doubt in my mind,” she said.
Parking on the fishing wharf has become so bad, it’s impeding fishermen from unloading their catch to the fish plant, said Paul Howell, president of the volunteer board that runs the Harbour Authority of Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s.
He said the provincial government dropped the ball when it comes to a place for ferry users to park if they want to leave their vehicle and walk on the ferry.
The harbour authority has warned it may have to resort to gating off the wharf, but will put no parking signs up soon to try to alleviate the problem. There’s a gate on the end of the wharf closest to the ferry ramp, but none on the far end accessible from the main road.
Howell said there have been as many as eight dump trucks parked there at a time — too dangerous a load for the wharf cribbing.
Recently, Howell said a transport truck driver trying to deliver ice to a 65-foot fishing boat had to back up the hilly road leading to the pier because of the cars parked on the wharf.
“It’s like they got no respect. They leave their vehicles in the middle of the lot,” Howell said.
He also said fishermen have had trouble unloading their catch because there’s no room for a forklift to manoeuvre around all the cars.
“It’s not sensible,” said Howell, adding one recent Friday night 52 cars were left on the wharf.
Jock Stewart recommended Transportation and Works move the ferry service to Conception Bay South.
He noted fishermen and pleasure boaters, even those using a dory, have to pay to use the wharf, but Bell Islanders are parking there for free.
“Up until the early ’90s or late ’80s, it was absolutely no parking anywhere. Nobody other than government vehicles. All of a sudden that has changed. Nobody here has ever ever been consulted,” Stewart said.
“They leave them all night and over weekend.”
Steve and Myrtle Tucker, across-the-road neighbours of the Stewarts echoed the concerns, saying idling engines and difficulties getting out of their road have worsened in recent years.
Bernard Manning, director of public works for Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s, said there’s a joint project between the town and the province to alleviate the issues.
A contractor has been chosen and Manning said Newfoundland Power is in the process of moving utility poles to ac the work.
Manning met with government officials Friday.
He said there will be two ticket booths — one at the top of the terminal road and one down by the ferry. And there will be layby lanes the town hopes will take the congestion away from Harding Hill and a restaurant where customers have problems accessing the parking lot because of the ferry lineups.
He couldn’t say when the work would be done.
Manning also said the town plans to pave the breakwater to increase parking for ferry users.
There’s also a concept plan to move the ferry terminal, but that’s not funded yet.
Other future plans include beautifying the area around the fish plant, wharf and terminal, but that’s just an idea so far.
“We would like to see private industry and the province working together,” Manning said.
He said he hasn’t heard anyone suggest moving the ferry operation to Conception Bay South and the town of Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s, despite the headaches, wants to keep it.