Maintaining the roads during a harsh winter

Stephen Roberts
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The Department of Transportation and Works is keeping a close eye on road conditions during what has been a rather unique winter.

Transportation Minister Nick McGrath says a harsh winter has presented challenges for road maintenance, but assures that safety is the primary concern.

Minister of Transportation and Works Nick McGrath likens the weather this year to an ‘old-fashioned winter’ as heavy snowfall, high winds, and cold temperatures have wreaked havoc on highway conditions.

“This winter has certainly shown us greater challenges in getting the job done,” says McGrath.

The primary concern for the Minister and the government is safety, he claims, and this is the first aspect they take into consideration when making decisions to maintain the highways.

McGrath says road conditions are monitored on an hourly basis and equipment is put out as often as they deem necessary.

The workers first go out and access the work that is required and if there’s a heavy snowfall, they will quite often bring out a ‘flyer’ – a combination of a plough sander or salt truck. As they plough the roads, then, they would also be sanding and salting concurrently. Quite often crews work in tandem, especially on two-way highway systems. Once the initial snow clearing is done, they may go back, do some widening, and clean-up work that would need to be done after they get the roads accessible.

McGrath notes that there is no preferential for either side of the Strait of Belle Isle and notes that the only difference in the work that occurs is that sometimes you need heavier equipment in Labrador due to the heavier accumulation of snow especially in the many rock cuts in the area.

“But the same rules apply no matter where we’re at in the province,” he says. “The safety and accessibility is treated the same throughout the whole province.

“Through my department, the government certainly does monitor on a regular basis and we always try to be out and provide the safest and most accessible road conditions possible to the general public.”

John Rumbolt, of Port Hope Simpson, can only speak for the Labrador side of things. But when he spoke to the Northern Pen in early February, he wasn’t pleased with conditions on the Trans-Labrador Highway.

The oil truck driver notes that between Port Hope Simpson and Charlottetown the road desperately needs to be scraped.

“It would be good if it was scraped but now, as soon as the ice goes on it, it won’t be fit again because there’s no stone on it and we know what a stone road is like with no stone on it – its rocks and holes and everything else,” he explains.

“After the ice road goes, it’ll be like that from Red Bay right to Cartwright.”

Organizations: Trans-Labrador Highway

Geographic location: Labrador, Port Hope Simpson, Charlottetown Red Bay

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