It’s been a busy couple of weeks — all things considered, I’ve done almost 4,000 kilometres of driving on Newfoundland roads for a variety of kinds of work, including parts of Routes 1, 75, 70, 73, 80, 310, 390, 391, 410, 413, 430 and 431, with a chunk of 210 coming later today.
And, though columns are often a spot for complaining, there’s not a heck of a lot to complain about when it comes to those stretches of road.
Sure, on the 410 heading for Baie Verte, you hit a number of sharp dips where a series of culverts are certainly failing beneath the road, the kind of sharp little jumps that I can remember loving as a child, when I didn’t have to worry about holding onto the wheel and could just relish that short moment when the car leaps up and the pit of your stomach struggles to follow.
And sure, the 413 to Burlington could use a healthy bit of brush trimming, just so I could have seen the cow moose and calf I nearly ran into at 6:30 in the morning a little bit earlier. (The 410 could use a little of that love, as well.)
And yes, there are construction slowdowns in Terra Nova Park for new culverts and ditching and a treacherous series of gravel pavement cuts between the Benton exit and Gander that, judging by the black streaks of transport truck tires, are surprising even the most professional of drivers. There are also, as always, places where ruts in the road are a dangerous rainy-day surprise, especially for drivers who look at the speed limit as grandma’s olden-time horse and buggy advice, rather than the top of the range of speeds that can be driven. (In fact, right now I’d argue that the biggest concern on the road is the fact that the number of aggressive high-speed drivers — in two weeks, I’ve seen several pass me easily travelling at 130 to 140 kilometres or more — seems to be rising sharply.)
By and large, though, big parts of the province’s road network are as good — or better — that I can ever remember them being.
What’s more, those same roads are markedly better than roads in other provinces. If you think Alberta is a great example of a place where, like the land of milk and honey, all things must be wonderful, try leaving Calgary on the Trans-Canada heading towards British Columbia like I did earlier this year. Yes, it’s four-lane divided highway, (something that our part of the Trans-Canada is not, at least, not right across the island) but it’s also frost-heaved, patched, crack-sealed, rutted and occasionally pot-holed — the kind of driving that, after a day, makes your arms feel like you’ve been working a jackhammer for a hobby.
Nova Scotian roads are equally battered — especially the secondary highways. And while, as this newspaper’s own Barb Sweet pointed out recently, there are road bridges in remarkably bad conditions, there are few you can pass under and face the Toronto and Montreal dangers of having chunks or even slabs of concrete fall on your car.
Obviously, I’m not saying that every road in the province is in perfect shape, or that there aren’t areas that need work — there are roads that ride like the early part of the 310 heading for Eastport from the Trans-Canada, or the 391 towards King’s Point and Rattling Brook, where the bumps and jumps are regular but hardly damaging. But, by and large, I haven’t been anywhere in the last few weeks where, on a good highway driving day, you can’t safely and comfortably drive at the posted speed limit.
And if you’ve been driving here for as long as I have and can remember those same roads in the ’80s and even the ’90s, I bet you’d agree.
Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s
editorial page editor. He can be reached
by email at email@example.com.