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Ambulance operator, business owners, residents demonstrate on Route 90


The first shoulder-to-shoulder stand of the day came at the entrance to the highway maintenance depot at St. Joseph's.

The group chanted: "Fix our roads! Fix our roads!"

The road in question today is Route 90 and, more specifically, the section of the Salmonier Line from roughly the Highways depot near St. Joseph’s to St. Mary's, according to several demonstrators who spoke with The Telegram.

The depot is just past the turnoff to Admiral's Beach and Route 94.

With the potholes on the main drag and sections with patchwork and shoulder work needed, the demonstrators said safety is their first concern.

"I operate a home support agency and I have a number of employees who are driving from Peter's River all the way up to this end of the bay for work and several of them are making at least four trips a day," said Gloria White, from Riverhead.

"The least of their concerns are the moose right now, because if they strike one of those holes, it's going to be a really bad fatality."

The demonstration was prompted when the area was not included on the list of planned road work for the year, as released last week by the provincial government.

Patrick Monsigneur, owner of the Claddagh Inn in St. Mary's, said the stretch connects tourists with the much-touted Mistaken Point site and the drive of the Irish Loop is promoted.

"The reality is there is damage happening to vehicles, and it's dangerous," he said.

A local ambulance operator, Gibbons Ambulance, joined the demonstration, saying no damage has happened to an ambulance yet, but the state of the road is concerning.

As of 10 a.m., about a dozen demonstrators still at the depot (having started around 7:30 a.m.) left to join a larger gathering 11 kilometres further in the road.

Demonstrators were, as of 10:30 a.m., on either side of the road, as are their parked vehicles, narrowing the highway from one lane in either direction down to just one lane.

The demonstration wrapped up at roughly 11 a.m.

Minister of Transportation and Works Al Hawkins said he had $62 million for road work tenders this year, with about $1 billion in requests for work, under some 1,500 requests submitted to the provincial government.

Safety was the top consideration when addressing the list of requests, he said, with consideration of what less-intensive summer road maintenance might be able to for areas where those concerns were raised. There were several other criteria, as noted on the department's site, including whether or not the road is a main route.

On that point, Hawkins said the area where the demonstration was held on Route 90 did land high on the list, just not high enough.

"I fully understand the frustrations that people have because the roads that we have are in deplorable conditions," he said.

Given the demand for road work, Hawkins said, he has urged the federal government to lift some restrictions around the Building Canada Fund and appealed for access to more federal dollars for provincial roads.

He said he should be able to say at the end of this week whether or not the province might successfully access more federal funding this year.

"But again... we just have such tremendous requirements out there."

A department spokeswoman followed up by email later in the day:

"Further to your interview with Minister Hawkins, the federal government has confirmed that the criteria regarding minimum traffic volume thresholds has changed under the Provincial Territorial Infrastructure Component in order to reflect varying needs of communities," she stated, "and passenger ferries has been included as a new category."

The department is now working through the funding programs to see what additional work in the province could now qualify for funding.

(Note: Updated at 12:50 p.m., adding response from Transportation minister, updated 1:45 p.m. with emailed )

The group chanted: "Fix our roads! Fix our roads!"

The road in question today is Route 90 and, more specifically, the section of the Salmonier Line from roughly the Highways depot near St. Joseph’s to St. Mary's, according to several demonstrators who spoke with The Telegram.

The depot is just past the turnoff to Admiral's Beach and Route 94.

With the potholes on the main drag and sections with patchwork and shoulder work needed, the demonstrators said safety is their first concern.

"I operate a home support agency and I have a number of employees who are driving from Peter's River all the way up to this end of the bay for work and several of them are making at least four trips a day," said Gloria White, from Riverhead.

"The least of their concerns are the moose right now, because if they strike one of those holes, it's going to be a really bad fatality."

The demonstration was prompted when the area was not included on the list of planned road work for the year, as released last week by the provincial government.

Patrick Monsigneur, owner of the Claddagh Inn in St. Mary's, said the stretch connects tourists with the much-touted Mistaken Point site and the drive of the Irish Loop is promoted.

"The reality is there is damage happening to vehicles, and it's dangerous," he said.

A local ambulance operator, Gibbons Ambulance, joined the demonstration, saying no damage has happened to an ambulance yet, but the state of the road is concerning.

As of 10 a.m., about a dozen demonstrators still at the depot (having started around 7:30 a.m.) left to join a larger gathering 11 kilometres further in the road.

Demonstrators were, as of 10:30 a.m., on either side of the road, as are their parked vehicles, narrowing the highway from one lane in either direction down to just one lane.

The demonstration wrapped up at roughly 11 a.m.

Minister of Transportation and Works Al Hawkins said he had $62 million for road work tenders this year, with about $1 billion in requests for work, under some 1,500 requests submitted to the provincial government.

Safety was the top consideration when addressing the list of requests, he said, with consideration of what less-intensive summer road maintenance might be able to for areas where those concerns were raised. There were several other criteria, as noted on the department's site, including whether or not the road is a main route.

On that point, Hawkins said the area where the demonstration was held on Route 90 did land high on the list, just not high enough.

"I fully understand the frustrations that people have because the roads that we have are in deplorable conditions," he said.

Given the demand for road work, Hawkins said, he has urged the federal government to lift some restrictions around the Building Canada Fund and appealed for access to more federal dollars for provincial roads.

He said he should be able to say at the end of this week whether or not the province might successfully access more federal funding this year.

"But again... we just have such tremendous requirements out there."

A department spokeswoman followed up by email later in the day:

"Further to your interview with Minister Hawkins, the federal government has confirmed that the criteria regarding minimum traffic volume thresholds has changed under the Provincial Territorial Infrastructure Component in order to reflect varying needs of communities," she stated, "and passenger ferries has been included as a new category."

The department is now working through the funding programs to see what additional work in the province could now qualify for funding.

(Note: Updated at 12:50 p.m., adding response from Transportation minister, updated 1:45 p.m. with emailed )

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