LABRADOR STRAITS, N.L. – Familiar stories of broken rims and busted tires abound once more this spring along the Labrador Straits.
It’s a little bit like déjà vu.
As in other recent years, there are numerous reports this spring of locals damaging their vehicles as they travel the Trans-Labrador Highway (Route 510).
Larry Dumaresque of L’Anse-au-Clair told the Northern Pen he has already lost four tires this spring to Route 510’s many potholes.
He lost two between L’Anse-au-Clair and the Quebec border and another two between L’Anse-au-Clair and Forteau.
With the “low profile” tires on his car, he says he doesn’t have to drive fast to lose a tire to Route 510.
The last tire Dumaresque lost was about three weeks prior to speaking with the Northern Pen.
Lately, he’s been using his truck instead of his car to avoid tire damage.
He says conditions have improved somewhat from earlier in the spring as a few potholes have been filled with coal patch.
But he feels the road is “still not fit to drive on.”
More tire troubles
Barry James Buckle of Forteau is another person who has lost a tire recently.
He told the Northern Pen he was driving back home from Lourdes-de-Blanc-Sablon, Quebec when he struck a pothole that busted his tire and broke a rim.
“In front of the SLDA (on Main Street in Forteau) and there was a pothole that I avoided but when I avoided that pothole, I ran into a bigger one,” he said. “I didn’t hear any air hissing out of the tire or anything like that, as soon as it happened the tire went flat immediately.”
He says his options were to either drive on the wrong side of the road, hit one pothole or hit the other.
Lynette Hancock of Forteau lost a tire and rim driving off the Blanc Sablon ferry on her way back home on May 6.
She says she was in a line of ferry traffic, driving about 50 to 60 kilometres per hour, in an 80 zone between the Quebec border and L’Anse au Clair, when she struck a pothole.
“There was a car in front of me, and of course I didn’t see the hole,” she said. “When the car went over the hole, I hit the hole. My tire just popped like a balloon.”
She estimates the pothole was about a foot deep and says it was very wide.
To replace the tire and rim, she says it cost over $200.
Hancock says she also lost a tire and rim last fall.
Work to be done
Last summer, after frustrated locals staged protests along the highway, the Department of Transportation and Works decided to level certain sections, totalling 11 kilometres.
This essentially added a layer of pavement on top of what was already there. Locals say this will not last long-term.
It also left 33 of the 44 kilometres between Pinware and the Quebec border untouched, even though the government’s road plans for 2017-18 indicated that pulverizing and repaving was to be conducted from the Quebec border to Pinware.
Some sections of the highway are worse than ever, as potholes cover the road from side-to-side – in those areas, they are impossible to avoid.
All a driver can do is to slow down to a crawl.
According to Hancock, that sometimes means driving 30 to 40 kilometres per hour in zones where the speed limit is 80.
In other areas, potholes are expanding in size and the sides of the road eroding away.
Everyone the Northern Pen spoke with is in agreement that pulverizing and repaving is needed as soon as possible. They say current conditions are dangerous for locals, and for people unfamiliar with the roads, it’s even worse.
“Unless you’re driving these roads a lot and learn where the potholes are, most potholes you’re there on top of them before you have a chance to react,” said Buckle.
Buckle is also an EMT and says the highway conditions are dangerous for ambulance drivers and their patients.
“Somebody who’s in critical life-threatening conditions, minutes can mean the difference between life and death,” he said. “And, I mean, depending on where we’re picking up a patient and dropping them off to, that road definitely has an impact because we can’t just drive full tilt. That’s dangerous for us and dangerous for the patient.”
The Department of Transportation and Works has informed the Northern Pen that a contract has been awarded to Mike Kelly and Sons Ltd for pulverizing and paving where required along Route 510 for approximately 22 kilometres.
The statement said it would be at various locations between kilometre 1.2 and kilometre 38.
“The project began this year and includes pulverizing of existing asphalt and work to re-stabilize the road bed, placement of granulars and new asphalt, and replacement of culverts and guardrails, where required,” according to the statement.
The project is expected to be completed this season.