Breaking ground

Colin MacLean
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Work begins extending Team Gushue Highway

It’s just past 3 p.m. Tuesday and The Telegram Jeep is bobbing and weaving its way through alarmingly deep snow and ice on a section of Redmond’s Road in St. John’s.

The road, one of the few in the city that’s still dirt, has been cleared and smoothed.

The Jeep comes to a halt and a journalist and photographer step out into the crisp, January air which smells of freshly cut pine.

Their surroundings are worth the iffy ride. Stretching out as far as the eye can see to the left and right is the future resting place of the Team Gushue Highway extension.

The terrain is relatively flat, except for a small dip towards Blackmarsh Road off in the distance to the right. A small herd of cattle huddle together in an enclosure on one side of the road as seagulls circle overhead.

Probably the most sticking feature of the vista is the shrub and brush that has been cleared away in a straight line stretching for kilometres on either side.

The line of cleared land is where work crews have started levelling the area — the next step in the completion of the highway extension.

Work that is finally moving.

The provincial government announced Tuesday Pennecon Heavy Civil has been awarded the $13-million contract to prepare the highway bed for paving. Crews have been at the site since last week.

Work is well underway.

Tuesday, crews used measuring instruments in the clearing, while excavators, massive trucks and other heavy equipment could be heard towards Blackmarsh Road.

After decades of waiting, the completion of the highway is finally within sight, said Transportation Minister Tom Hedderson.

“When we go into any project the hardest part is getting it out of the gates. This one is not only out of the gates, but of course we’ve got a section of the highway already completed and open. So this piece brings us closer to the completion of a good series of bypasses and overpasses and so on,” said Hedderson.

The road is designed to alleviate congestion on all major roads into the area.

According to a provincial news release, Pennecon has been contracted to prepare a strip of 5.3 km, out of a total of 7.1 km, of the remaining section of highway. The extension will snake from the Kenmount Road overpass to Robert E. Howlett Memorial Drive and Pitts Memorial Drive. However, Pennecon will, so far, only be prepping from Kenmount Road to Brookfield Road.

The final section of highway will have a separate tender, as will the overpasses where it intersects with major roads.

The extension is scheduled for completion sometime in 2014.

But that projection is based on everything working perfectly, said Hedderson.

If there’s a problem in the process, something that is not unusual for work like this, that timeframe is flexible, he said.

“There’s always challenges when you do these types of projects. In many cases you’re going to be going through some private land so there may be some delays as we take care of that type of business,” said the minister.

“Coupled with that, is that it’s both a federal and provincial investment. So where you have two levels of government sometimes there are challenges and delays. Not purposefully, but sometimes it’s just getting the paperwork done.”

Residents of the area should also prepare themselves for a long construction process. Construction will require intermittent blasting to clear some of the route, though the province is assuring homeowners they will be warned well in advance.

Traffic slowdowns can also be expected on Topsail and Blackmarsh roads. No closures are expected at this time, but a detour will be put into use for a section of Old Pennywell Road.

The cost of the project is being shared between the province and the federal government. However, ownership of the highway will fall to the City of St. John’s once it’s completed. That has been a controversial issue for several years.

St. John’s city council has always argued the highway is a regional project that will benefit everyone. So in its view, the City of Mount Pearl should help pay for the upkeep of the road. Work that is expected to cost a little less than $1 million a year.

But Mount Pearl council has contended the highway is rightfully the responsibility of the province. The council has said that neither city should have to be responsible for the upkeep, but since St. John’s already agreed to take over the road it will have to shoulder the burden alone.

When contacted by The Telegram the mayors of both cities praised the project and expressed relief it is finally moving. But that is where their agreement ended.

“It’s another example of why we need more regional co-operation for road systems and other things,” said St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe.

“If the city of Mount Pearl had wanted to take ownership of it, then we would have shared in the cost of maintenance and snow clearing. But somebody had to take ownership of it; otherwise it wasn’t going to be built. So we took ownership in order to get it built,” said O’Keefe.

But Mount Pearl Mayor Randy Simms reiterated his city’s stance on this point. Saying the province and the federal government should never have stipulated that a municipality must take ownership of the highway, as it’s not a responsibility either city can easily manage.

Organizations: Mount Pearl council

Geographic location: Redmond, Kenmount Road, Mount Pearl

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Recent comments

  • Mount Pearl Resident
    January 25, 2012 - 13:47

    People who resist Amalgamation are not only short sighted, but also selfish. You can't deny the metro region needs this, you only care about having to pay more tax. Shame on you all. -Mount Pearl Resident.

    • Shame on You
      January 25, 2012 - 16:24

      Mount Pearl started up as a town and whatever it has done was done within its community is a direct result of the Mount Pearl residents. St. John’s had zero interest in Mount Pearl until they realized the millions of dollars it was missing out on in Donovan’s Industrial Park. Why should any resident be told, ‘’YOU ARE NOW A ST. JOHN’S RESIDENT, PAY ST. JOHN’S TAXES AND RECEIVE THE SAME SHYTE SERVICES DEAL WITH IT’’. As for this argument on tolls….I suggest you go to talk to the residents of Sherwood Park, Alberta (population 60,000) or St. Albert, Alberta (population 58,000) and see if they should join Edmonton – it’s not even an issue there. Edmontonians DON’T CARE about Sherwood Park or St. Albert residents mooching off the city of Edmonton as they are usually working in Edmonton, shopping in Edmonton, enjoying the entertainment in Edmonton – they merely live in Sherwood Park or St. Albert to enjoy the community, property and quieter lifestyle. Mount Pearl should decide their fate, as they have done since they decided to go it alone as a town and THEY AND THEY ALONE should decide if and when they wish to join St. John’s. Until then, if you love St. John’s so much, I suggest you move there.

  • PGS
    January 25, 2012 - 13:18

    My 2 cents worth: Use of Gushue Highway by non St. John's residents: I live in Mount Pearl and work in St. John's. I am looking forward to the extension being completed as it will shorten my commute using it directly or reduce traffic on existing roads. The new highway will benefit all of the north east avalon towns and cities either directly or indirectly. The thought of installing a toll system for it for the sake of discriminating against non St. John's residents is elementary grade thinking. Perhaps it makes sense to toll the road for all users to pay for upkeep and maintenance but not to punish non residents. The argument that non St. John's residents "take" from St. John's by using their roads is also juvenile. Non residents do not just drive around St. John's for the fun of it to degrade the roads. Non residents who travel on St. John's roads do so to go to work, shop, go to restaurants, movies, etc thereby economically benefitting St. John's through the associated property and business taxes paid to St. John's by these destinations. Visiting provincial government facilities that do not pay their fare share of municipal taxes is another topic all together, however their presence in St. John's has greatly influenced St. John's prosperity. Any other towns or cities in the province would love to have Confederation Building, HSC, MUN, CNA, etc. The property and business taxes St. John's collects is meant to pay for the upkeep of its infrastructure used by residents and non residents. Conversely Mount Pearl could argue the same. St. John's residents of Southlands, Goulds, Brookfield Road, Topsail Road and the new developments on the former Sprung Greenhouse site primarily use Mount Pearl infrastructure for vehicle travel, shoping, schools, etc. Amalgamation: I believe in the concept of amalgamation, however at this time there is no benefit in it for Mount Pearl. Increased property tax rates and decreased services is not a selling point. The City of Mount Pearl pays the City of St. John's directly for municipal services it does not provide for its self. This year Mount Pearl is budgeting to pay St. John's 7.6 million for its share of water, sewage treatment, fire fighting, and Metrobus. Mount Pearl again is not taking from St. John's! St. John's fiscal management: I have to question St. John's ability to properly manage itself. The avalon peninsula has been in a historically high economic boom for a number of years now with St. John's receiving the bulk of the prosperity. There is tremendous amounts of new housing and commercial development in the City all built with private money with the City just having to do snow clearing, garbage collection, and tax collection with little or no infrastructure maintenance necessary in these new areas. How the City cannot be flush with money is beyond my comprehension. How will the City ever cope when the eventual downturn in the economy comes?

  • Look at the map
    January 25, 2012 - 10:12

    For anyone with a half a brain....hmm, I guess that means the residents of St. John's should take a pass on this then, this new highway doesn't even go through Mount Pearl....why should I pay for anything that doesn't even enter my community?? See for yourself.... Scroll down to entry of March 22, 2009 You can thank the residents of Mount Pearl for pumping their salaries into the city of St. John's downtown, restaurants, movie cinemas, shopping malls, big box stores. Your welcome.

  • Darren
    January 25, 2012 - 09:59

    Pay a toll for what? So, I can drive though St. John's and ruin another front end in one of my vehicles. Your roads are a disgrace, your snowclearing and other services are the worst mankind has seen. BTW - does St. John's not understand the benefit you get from having all those provincially funded buildings in your City?

  • ed power
    January 25, 2012 - 09:57

    Toll Booths. My, oh my, the wailing and knashing of teeth from disgruntled townies is frightful. Their elected luminaries made the dubious decision to accept for their citizens the gift of perpetual maintenance and upgrading of a new provincial highway, one that will connect an existing provincial highway with another, and now they are upset with their expensive bequest from Andy and Doc. The other communities, with the fate of their taxpayers in mind, balked at both the cost and the precedent being set. And so, the latest call for toll booths, soon to followed by passports, residency permits, retinal scans, DNA samples and God knows what else to prevent non-townies, ex-townies and other undesirable sorts from soiling the pristine paradise -not to be confused with the Town of Paradise - that is the City of Legends. So, please, install your toll booths, erect your barricades, construct your Townie (Berlin) Walls and hire the guards, customs inspectors, border agents and whomever/whatever else that you deem neccessary to protect you, and your expensive new road, from non-townie tires. And, please, don't complain when your tax base shrinks and businesses move out when people find it far easier to work and shop elsewhere. I'm sure that the businesses and industrial plants in Donovans and St. Anne's will struggle in the short term to replace their Townie workers who can no longer get their work visas approved by Doc to work outside the Wall, but there will be lots of people out here in the boonies to fill the vacancies. Perhaps, as many of the intelligentsia in St. John's suggest, amalgamation is the answer. I think this would be the ideal solution to the dilemma. That way, when St. John's is amalgamated with the City of Mount Pearl, the citizens of the former City of St. John's will gain the benefits they have long been lacking - good government, lower taxes, efficient and cost effective services and no parking meters. As an added bonus, Mount Pearl will finally get elevators.

    • John Downtown
      January 25, 2012 - 11:56

      @Ed, Elevators in Mt. Pearl?? There have been for many many many years! Just have to know where to look! :)

  • Paul
    January 25, 2012 - 09:33

    I would say that most people from St. John's drive on the roads of Mt. Pearl. Maybe they should also pay for that privledge. Maybe we should place a tax on all the transport trucks that pass through Mt. Pearl (from Donovans Industrial Park) with supplies for St. John's, Cost of all food. clothing, oil products headed that way would be increased and the taxes would be paid to Mt. Pearl. Bring it in!

    • Too Funny
      January 25, 2012 - 13:49

      That's funny, but how long do you think Donvans would last before the companies started to bail for industrial parks that didn't have your tax. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

  • Jimmy
    January 25, 2012 - 09:17

    Again this shows the inexperiance by Mayor O'Keefe. IMO it is a provincial Road and upkeep of same should not fall on any municipality. Instead of teaming up with the Mt. Pearl mayor as a unified front O'keefe agreed to cough up tax payers money. It's nothing to do with who benefits from it. O'keefe jumped the gun.

  • Graham
    January 25, 2012 - 09:16

    Randy Simms wants all the benefits but none of the shared cost. Its time to finally amalgimate this entire area and call it what it really is. The City of St Johns. This would mean Randy Simms would have to pick up another part time job..but hes good at that.

  • Brett
    January 25, 2012 - 08:59

    Chris Chafe - what is the population of all the little towns you just mentioned. What is the size of mount pearl? What are the average incomes in all those communities? No, this is another example of Mount Pearl passing the buck. The sooner the province puts its foot down on Mount Pearl's neck + makes them amalgamate, the better for St. John's. If St. John's was more efficient, this would be much easier. I am hoping that when we amalgamate we move from part time councilors to full time ones. No hiding behind your own outside business, no having outside obligations for your livelihood.

    • Chris Chafe
      January 25, 2012 - 10:26

      Brett, have you driven to such "towns". if you have I am sure you will come to realize that the income in such towns is on par with the incomes of Mt. Pearl and St. John's, as not every one working in the oil industry lives in this pathetic city. This is NOT another example of Mt. Pearl passing the buck....this is a prime example of our esteemed mayor proving that he is incompetent and does not have the best interest of the entire city in mind. This new road extends Robert E. Howlett Memorial Drive to connect to the Team Gushue Road, which are BOTH PROVINCIAL ROADS.

  • City Taxpayer
    January 25, 2012 - 08:11

    Couldn't agree more...Toll Booths are the answer as long as they charge from the Mt. Pearl overpasses going east - why let them free load yet again....make them pay one way or another!! St. John's Taxpayers shouldn't fork the bill for everything these "Mt. Pearl/Paradise" people use on a regular basis just as much as we do. Time to start sharing costs!! Everyone else in Canada has toll bridges....

    • DD
      January 25, 2012 - 08:37

      Time you opened that door to your brain. Jeez, what nonsense.

    • Dan Pealtown
      January 25, 2012 - 09:29

      I guess the folks from the southern shore get a break, count the cars heading there, you will find that there are a lot of them. Those folks will avail of this new road MUCH more than Mt.Pearl residents. The province should be taking responsibility for this road, NOT St. John's! This is just another download from the province...more are coming for those that are crazy enough to take them! Way to go Doc just another great decision by the jokers at city hall! Come on people change the kooks at city hall next election

  • Chris Chafe
    January 25, 2012 - 07:55

    Has anyone even looked at the map for this road??????? Since everyone is on Mt. Pearl's case about not wanting to maintain a "provincial highway", why are you guys not on the backs of Petty Harbour/Maddox Cove, Wittless Bay, Bay Bulls, Mobile and other places like that because those communities will avail of the new infrastructure more than our neighbors in Mt. Pearl.

  • Political watcher
    January 25, 2012 - 07:39

    Yet again Mount Pearl is geting a free ride on the backs of others.

    • mp
      January 25, 2012 - 14:46

      All i can say is REALLY PEOPLE!!! Ask yourself,how old you are?You say that mt.pearl will gain by this new road.Yes this is true. Now we wont have alot of people from St.john's going thru mt.pearl tearing up our roads (mount carson) going to work,shopping,etc.Will we pay for a toll?NO unless you are going to toll all the roads going in and out of St.john's.Hmmmm who will pay for that.I know who wont,PEOPLE OF MT.PEARL... WHEN WE THE PEOPLE OF MT.PEARL pay for service's we GAIN.How is the SERVICE"S of ST.JOHN'S?Just saying!!!

  • John Smith
    January 25, 2012 - 07:15

    As with everything else Mt. Pearl is happy to drive on it on their way to work, but for god's sake don't ask them to pay for it...nope leave that to the already overtaxed people of st.john's.

  • the guys in the know
    January 25, 2012 - 07:05

    HERE IS THE FIRST OPPORTUNITY FOR A TOLL ROAD COMING EAST...if mt.pearl does not want to anty up then by god this is the way to make them pay!!

    • Eli
      January 25, 2012 - 08:24

      God forbid Randy Simms makes more sense than Dennis O'Keefe. You guys down east have never gotten over the transfer of the Motor Vehicle Registration Department to Mt. Pearl. The infamous "overpass" is gone but the syndrome remains. Grow up guys!