A question on highway construction

Big TCH curve in Tryon makes list in $11.36-million infrastructure deal

Published on August 14, 2014

Federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea

©Guardian photo by Brian McInnis

It’s amazing how the cost of highway construction can fluctuate from year to year. It seems it was just two or three short years ago that a dangerous curve along the Trans-Canada Highway near Tryon was one of three finalists in a multimillion-dollar, federal-provincial highway deal. A bypass around Crapaud was another and the now infamous Bonshaw realignment was the third.

Bonshaw was the eventual winner. The original Plan A proposal was to take a small part of the Strathgartney provincial park in an effort to straighten and improve the section of highway in Churchill through Strathgartney towards Bonshaw. There was such a public uproar about the park that the province threw caution to the wind and decided to build a brand new bypass to the north connecting Route 1 from New Haven to Bonshaw. The fact that it plowed through a wilderness area, across streams and hacked into old forests didn’t seem to bother government but it mattered a great deal to residents and concerned citizens who blockaded, picketed and camped out for months.

The new highway has opened; we have a large new wilderness park; and a price tag approaching $20 million. The project generated a lot of work and the road construction industry was appreciative. But the huge cost still irritates a lot of Islanders. The province had argued it was a one-time offer from Ottawa and it was determined to cash in.

So it was interesting to note that a new four-project highway improvement announcement Tuesday between Ottawa and the province includes the dangerous curve section in Tryon. The combined cost of the four projects is estimated at $11.36 million with Ottawa contributing $5.68 million in Build Canada Fund money, largely from a gas tax rebate provided by generous P.E.I. motorists.

There are many other bureaucratic paragraphs in the news release with various names, credits and money sources and it all gets very confusing. But the gist of it seems to be that Souris is getting a new bridge while Routes 1 and 2 are getting some upgrades. There are five projects but the joint release suggests it’s only four but we won’t quibble over minor details when there are millions of dollars at stake.

In addition to the new Souris bridge, there will be a new left-turning lane from Route 2 onto the lower Rollo Bay Road, improvements will make it easier to make left turns along the Trans-Canada Highway near Bonshaw, the 1,350-metre segment of the highway curve near Tryon will be fixed to meet safety guidelines, and the increasingly dangerous intersection of the St. Peters and York roads in Marshfield will be redesigned to improve safety.

The Tryon project raises a question. The big curve there is dangerous and needs replacing. That was the reason it was one of three finalists in negotiations several years ago. Was the cost then going to be well over $12 million just for that project, as Bonshaw morphed into? Why has the cost today suddenly plummeted when we can handle four to five projects for under $12 million?

Any motorist coming from York knows the Russian roulette being played there at the Route 2 intersection. It’s especially frustrating for motorists trying to turn east and at most times of the day it’s a very dangerous decision.

And, oh yes, both Egmont MP Gail Shea, the Regional Minister for P.E.I., and Robert Vessey, the provincial Minister of Transportation, promised there will be more Build Canada announcements to come in the weeks and months ahead as federal and provincial elections approach.

No surprises there.