New Brunswick's highway of discontent

Teresa Wright
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There’s only one main artery that leads to Prince Edward Island via the Confederation Bridge, and it’s rife with potholes, patches and moose

The road to Prince Edward Island may be paved with good intentions, but truckers, tourists and residents travelling to and from the Island say the highway that leads to the province is in need of a major overhaul.

The roadway in question lies within the boundaries of New Brunswick. Trans Canada Highway route number 16 from the Port Elgin roundabout to the Confederation Bridge is the only main artery that connects P.E.I. to the mainland.

That means anyone wishing to access the Island by road — whether for business or pleasure — must travel this route.

But the two-lane highway has become a less than pleasant drive to P.E.I.’s iconic red cliffs and sandy beaches. Cracks and potholes often riddle the roadway. Many of these have been patched numerous times, leaving a highway reminiscent of a paved patchwork quilt.

Trucker Terry Gallant says he feels the highway is unsafe.

“When you lay patch over patch, it’s rough,” he told The Guardian.

“My biggest concern, more than a truck, is a car skidding on that type of road on a wet day… when it’s quite bumpy and the road is either slick with rain or covered with ice, it makes road conditions fairly unstable. It’s just unsafe.”

Gallant hauls loads as often as three times a day over this highway. He says the roughness caused by road damage and multiple patches is hard on his equipment.

“When it’s hard on equipment, our costs go up. And then the cost to the consumer or whoever we’re trucking for also goes up because we have to pass on our costs.”

Scott Annear, chair of the P.E.I. Trucking Sector Council, echoed these concerns. The state of this highway has meant P.E.I. drivers and trucking companies have had to incur regular costs for repairs, he said.

“I don’t know if there’s a formula of what my repair bills go up, but I know my springs and everything wear out quicker when the roads are rough,” Annear said. “They’ve got to focus on some of these roads.”

Both Annear and Gallant cited concerns over how this rough road could also affect P.E.I.’s important and lucrative tourism industry.

“It’s unacceptable for a main highway leading to a province to have this type of road,” Gallant said.

The P.E.I. government has been in talks with officials in New Brunswick to find out where this roadway lies in their list of infrastructure priorities.

Premier Robert Ghiz even raised it with N.B. Premier David Alward during the last Council of Atlantic Premiers meeting in May.

P.E.I. Transportation Minister Robert Vessey says he too has been in discussions with his New Brunswick ministerial counterpart, as have road engineers in both provinces.

But when asked directly what he would like done with this highway, Vessey remained diplomatic, citing that it falls within another province’s jurisdiction and that he has his own roadways to attend to.

But he did acknowledge the state of the highway is one of concern.

“Everybody wants to see smooth roads and safe roads, and I’m sure their government would be no different than ours on that,” Vessey said. “They are making improvements to that section, and I’m sure they will continue to do that.”

Indeed work has begun on one part of this roadway — 2.5 kilometres from the Port Elgin roundabout toward the Confederation Bridge has been shaved and is being repaved.

Micheal Olscamp is the MLA for the area. He pointed to over $5 million that has been spent over the last four years in upgrades to this stretch and to highway 15, which extends from the Port Elgin roundabout to Moncton, where many Islanders regularly travel to shop.

“I’ll admit that stretch, especially at the traffic circle, was deplorable but that’s being rectified as we speak,” Olscamp said.

But the state of the highway itself is not the only concern for motorists in the area.

Moose collisions are a frightening and common occurrence along the 20-kilometre stretch between the bridge and Port Elgin. Between 2006 and 2010, there were 37 accidents involving moose in this area.

Marilyn McQuaid of Grand River knows first hand how devastating such a collision can be.

She was travelling with a vanload of passengers along this highway eight years ago after spending the day shopping in Moncton.

Big yellow signs with moose silhouettes warn motorists repeatedly along this stretch, so she slowed her driving speed. It was about 10 p.m., a beautiful, moonlit night, as she describes it. It might be just the kind of night a moose would be out for a stroll, she had contemplated

But when she saw the big, hulking creature in her headlights, she had almost no time to react.

“I think I may have put my foot on the brake briefly, but there was just an incredible crash. The moose was flopped up on the van, then flopped back down onto the road,” she said.

“We were covered in glass because the windshield was just hanging, and the side windows were out. The hooves had come back and smashed into it. The van was completely written off.”

Mercifully, no one was hurt but the moose was killed. McQuaid said she considers herself incredibly lucky. Several people have died in similar collisions with moose along this same area.

She has since seen another dead moose along this stretch of highway, as well as a deer, and has friends who have also had close calls and one who spotted a moose running alongside their car.

Many have called for fencing to be put up along this highway, but Olscamp says this is impossible.

“Fencing is out of the question there. There are too many breaches, too many driveways,” he said. “We’ve considered it, but it’s not practical.”

About $30,000 has been spent on signage, complete with flashing yellow hazard lights, warning motorists of ‘hot areas’ for moose, and another $25,000 has been spent cutting back bush along the highway to allow drivers a better chance of spotting the animals before they enter the roadway.

But when travelling along this area at night, motorists should simply drive slowly and keep a watchful eye open.

“Anytime I go down there on political business or for events, if it’s dark, my wife and I, from the bridge up to Port Elgin, drive about 40 kilometres an hour,” Olscamp said.

As for the state of highway 16 itself, New Brunswick is currently in the early days of a provincial election campaign. Olscamp, who has been serving as his province’s fisheries minister, is pledging to have the remainder of highway 16 repaved right up to the Confederation Bridge, if re-elected.

In the meantime, he suggests people take an alternate route — the coastal highway 955, which recently received 16 kilometres of repaving.

But Mark Allen, who owns and operates Allen’s Petro Canada on highway 16, says travellers and people who live in the area want the main highway repaved.

“It’s just unacceptable,” he told The Guardian in a recent interview.

“I had a tourist come in the other day who said this was his first and last trip here. (He said) ‘This is the condition of your roads? You guys don’t really care about your people that are travelling your roads, you don’t want them here.’”

Allen has amassed a petition calling on the New Brunswick government to repave, not patch, highway 16. He planned to present it to Premier David Alward this week.

“We’ve had countless numbers of people complaining about the road and the road conditions…  It’s bad enough that you have to worry about the wildlife, now you have to worry about the potholes to boot,” Allen said.

“It’s dangerous, so they really should do something.”

Organizations: The Guardian, P.E.I. Trucking Sector Council, Council of Atlantic Premiers Petro Canada

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Port Elgin May.P.E.I Moncton Grand River

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Recent comments

  • islander
    August 25, 2014 - 22:00

    Traveled route 955 today on the way back to. PEI based on the info in this story "16 km of repaving" Let me rectify this story. THERE HAS BEEN NO REPAVING!! This road is worse than the main highway.

  • boss
    August 24, 2014 - 11:05

    That road is awful, - but then I thank N.B. every time I pass through from Moncton to Quebec's border, and back - FREE of charge the greatest road ever - PEI & CANADA should help out N.B. and get a decent road to the bridge, it is all in co-operation, - and not confrontation , which seems to be what Ghjiz practices in his dealing with Ottawa. Smarten up Robert since you are so hell bend on being the Premier.

  • victor
    August 24, 2014 - 11:00

    Maybe when the Premiers meet next week, they should all be forced to drive and not come flying in. Maybe Ghiz . in his arrogance, could open his mouth and get an arrangement with the Premier of New Brunswich, or is that too much to ask of a guy we pay that much, who otherwise is ready to flap his gums. While he is at it, perhaps he could ask for a sign or permission for PEI to put up a sign so people can find the way to PEI without suddenly finding themselves in Aualac, N.S. Do something practical for the tourists for once, instead of just sending money to Toronto for advertising, and trotting out the same old faces (Henderson etc.) to tell us how wonderful things are..

  • unicorn
    August 24, 2014 - 10:51

    So Ghiz wastes $ 29 mill on the party, but people have to go through hell and high water to get here, ---- stupid is as stupid does.

  • roberta
    August 24, 2014 - 10:48

    Vessey did not have any problem bullying the plan B through, - now he is mealy mouthed regarding the safe driving to the bridge on the other side. Suddenly the good Vessey seems to need assertiveness training to get his point across. This mess also shows that our politicians and civil servants (deputies) are useless in any setting other than the golf courses on PEI. One would think these highly paid employees could make some headway in negotiations with Ottawa and N. B. Then again when the Ghiz spends his time hacking on Harper, why should anybody give PEI the time of day. Screwed again by lack of competence .

  • willie wonka
    August 23, 2014 - 19:37

    Michael Olscamp (PC) is and has been the Member of the NB Parliament representing this area for the past eight years. It has gotten increasingly worse every year on that stretch of road and there is almost NO brush cutting. He is a dingbat and hopefully he will not succeed in his 'bid' for reelection. It sure seems that he does not care how many die from moose/car collisions. Big talker--that is all he is and a huge disgrace to the area.

  • Al
    August 23, 2014 - 18:53

    Mostly islanders using it so why not put toll s on it

  • Donnie
    August 23, 2014 - 18:22

    For the love of the Lord, do not let Island Coastal (or anyone else) do it to the same specifications of "Plan B", a.k.a. "The Confederation Corduroy Road"..., worst road on PEI, it's like they paved it and it immediately was aged 20 years.....

  • dave anger
    August 23, 2014 - 12:37

    maritime union

  • bulldog
    August 23, 2014 - 12:25

    I was over there last Monday and two long strips are ready for paving and could be completed by now.This story should have been written three months ago.

    • Bob Billingsgate
      August 23, 2014 - 14:24

      Bulldog, did you read the story and if so did you even understand what was written? Only a portion of the road is being paved. There is still more than two kilometres of road that is not being paved. The residents in the area want the whole road paved, but that is not being done and they are angry. Until the whole road is paved from the Port Elgin roundabout to past the bad patches the story is still relevant (that means it is still a timely story) Please read the story again and this time try to understand it. Move your lips as you read if you have to or maybe get your kids to read it out loud to you and they can explain the parts you don't quite understand.

    • Jerry
      August 23, 2014 - 16:48

      Summer down there cupcake. The solution would be for NB govt to make that highway a toll road paid for 100% by its users. A toll of about $30 each way ought to cover the costs of having a 4 lane highway from the bridge to Aulac.

    • so sad
      August 25, 2014 - 07:22

      Bulldog i too just traveled that road twice and you read the story correctly Bob Billingsgate needs to stop being so degrading to people or no one will like him when he grows up. Road isn't as bad as story lets on and bob is complaining about 2km stretch.

  • same story
    August 23, 2014 - 11:32

    Think about it people . 90% of the travelers on the road are going to or coming from P.E.I. why would N.B worry about the road? Drive slow watch for moose and stop whining . N.B. has beautiful roads after the short stretch .

    • Show us
      August 23, 2014 - 13:24

      Show us your stats genius. Also, where do you think a LOT of those Islanders are spending their money? IN NEW BRUNSWICK. Can you figure the equation out now why NB should be maintaining the highway?

  • Frequent island traveler
    August 23, 2014 - 11:17

    2 summers ago the Govt of NS repaved the entire Trans Canada Hwy 106 leading from the Caribou ferry terminal to the 4 lane highway in Westville. They also have high tech LED street lights at the Pictou rotary and on thd Pictou causeway. NS sees the value in good roads. I see that the reporter er erroneously omits this little comparison. If you've traveled every kilometre of NB's arterial highway network this year as I have, you'll know that NB Hwy 16 is not unique in its poor condition. Hwy 11 to Campbellton has a lot of crumbling pavement, so does the 4 lane Hwy 1 to the border at St Stephen & Hwy 2 to edmundston - these were completely rebuilt or built new within the last 15-20 years but the lack of maintenance is showing in spades. NB is flat broke - the worst of all provinces in the country & they're deferring on schools, healthcare, roads, etc. Thr condition of Hwy 16 to the bridge is just a symptom of a much much larger problem. My solution? I go to Halifax using the ferry instead. Safer and almost the same amount of time and I feel more rested.

  • Dundas Sue
    August 23, 2014 - 11:09

    Well, Mr Vessey, just tell the NB Transportation minister that Islanders can't get to Champlain Place as easily as they should and hte more money they sp0end on shocks and struts and moose collisions they cannot spend in Dieppe and they will be paving that road tomorrow. IT IS TERRIBLE AND A DISGRACE. IT LOOKS LIKE A COWPATH, not that there is anything wrong with cowpaths, they have their palce, but are not intended to be used for tractor trailers and card. It would have been far better for PEI to have used the Plan B money to have gifted NB with a good road.

  • Frequent Traveller
    August 23, 2014 - 09:11

    That highway is a mess. The Government of New Brunswick and the Government of Canada should be ashamed of themselves. It's the Canada-owned and New Brunswick-shared Trans-Canada Highway and the "main" highway to and from Prince Edward Island. That entire 51-kilometre stretch of highway should be re-constructed and twinned with 2 lanes going in each direction.

    • Johnny Come Lately
      August 23, 2014 - 16:45

      That highway is 100% owned by the province of New Brunswick. The only roads that the Government of Canada owns are in national parks and national historic sites, on Canadian Forces bases, on Indian reserves, and some of the scenic parkways in Ottawa. The Trans Canada Highway system is partially funded by Ottawa but they don't own a single inch of theses roads.

  • townie22
    August 23, 2014 - 08:24

    after traveling through there a month ago, i will never complain about PEI roads again.

  • The UrbanOysterman
    August 23, 2014 - 06:28

    Well neighbour, have you travelled into Northern New Brunswick from Quebec..... Quebec is at least, over the past 10 years, trying to mount a good approach. Priorities to residents per kilometer, a little less emphasis on what is at the end of the road. Maybe with all that, the country's money, the 2015 federal highway infrastructure programs will find Fredricton looking towards The Cape. Like for so many years.... Islanders and those effected, will be like Northern New Brunswickers looking at Quebec, saying when and now, when will it be finished..... how does one say no rush in French, or for that fact in Brunswickian ?

  • Margaret
    August 23, 2014 - 05:49

    One suggestion is to drastically reduce the speed limit (for the moose issue). If we know it is a deadly issue.. why is the speed limit not reduced?

    • coiuntry boy
      August 24, 2014 - 19:19

      No one pays any attention to a speed limit that is too low. Just because the island is full of seniors that drive 20 km below the speed limit and cut in front of every body doesn't mean everyone has to drive like that.