Councillor says no way to highway

Daniel MacEachern dmaceachern@thetelegram.com
Published on January 18, 2016
Jonathan Galgay

A St. John’s city councillor wants the provincial government to take ownership of the Team Gushue Highway extension — and says the city should block access to it if the province doesn’t agree.

Coun. Jonathan Galgay served notice Monday at city council’s weekly public meeting he intends to move a motion next week that the city decline to take ownership of the long-delayed extension — including the estimated $1 million in annual maintenance costs.

“It has always been my position that it is a provincial highway and therefore the responsibility should be with the provincial government,” Galgay told reporters after the meeting, adding that he’d discussed the issue with members of the previous Progressive Conservative administration. He hopes the new Liberal government will see it his way.

When completed — it was originally supposed to be finished in 2013 — the highway will connect the Outer Ring Road in north St. John’s with Robert E. Howlett Memorial Drive in the south, and is intended to ease traffic congestion on other streets.

Galgay said the eventual maintenance costs are not currently allocated in the city’s budget.

“If we were to take over the highway, we will need to find an additional $1 million in savings internally to cover the cost, and I don’t think that should be on the backs of (St. John’s) taxpayers. It is a regional road,” he said.

Asked what the city should do if the province doesn’t agree, Galgay said the city should restrict access to the extension.

“I am fairly confident that there’s a number of councillors around this table that have no interest in taking over the road,” said Galgay, adding that in the more than two years he’s been on city council, he has yet to see an actual agreement that indicates the city should take on ownership of the extension.

“All I’ve been getting is verbal updates from our senior staff when I meet with the provincial government,” he said. “The fact of the matter is we have budgetary restraints, and I don’t know what the taxpayers would think if we went next year and said that your taxes are going up to cover the costs of a provincial highway. … This is a new council, it has a new direction, and it is my hope that my colleagues will feel the same way I do, and that a provincial roadway shouldn’t be downloaded onto a municipal government.”