While towns on the southwest coast want to move ahead with mid-island road upgrades, it’s also clear they don’t want to have it done by taking away from upgrades to current roads.
Mayor Clyde Dominey of Ramea made that point clear in an interview on Monday when asked about a meeting of the South West Coast Joint Council held Saturday in Burgeo where one of the topics discussed was improvements to the mid-island road.
He said for the people of the Burgeo-Ramea area, the road through the interior cuts off a lot of time when heading to central, east or returning back to the west coast.
Dominey said traveling the full Trans-Canada Highway route is a nine to 10-hour drive for people in their area, but the mid-island route cuts down the travel time to about eight hours to reach St. John’s.
But he cautioned that nobody is advocating a paved road through the interior and what they would like to see is a good quality dirt road that private companies could probably assist in upgrading, especially with Emera soon running a power line across part of the interior of the province.
“It might be a good time for some of this work to get done,” he said.
Dominey said the Burgeo Highway (Route 480) is important to the people of the area and they certainly wouldn’t want to see money taken away from improvements to that road, especially now that a lot of repairs are needed.
Mayor Derm Corbett of Buchans, who attended the meeting through teleconference, said it makes sense to try and upgrade the existing route on both sides of Red Indian Lake and it would be advantageous for the Millertown and Buchans area.
He said some of the most beautiful scenery in the province is available in that area and there is an abundance of hunting and fishing.
“If there is any way to allow people to access the area in the spring, summer and fall with roads that are in better shape, then there are economic advantages on our end,” Corbett said. “There’s so much that could be done there in relation to tourism.”
Corbett said a trip from the Buchans area to the ferry in Port aux Basques would knock off a couple of hours in driving time, and while the roads are being used now, upgrading them would make the route safer.
Corbett said there when caribou are migrating the route is spectacular. He said from an adventure tourism point of view, and in terms of nature, it could work well.
“People from the United States would lose their minds if they could see what’s up there,” he said. “It’s a great, beautiful area.”
During the Burgeo meeting, the South West Coast Joint Council and municipal representatives on the Central Newfoundland Joint Council endorsed the plan to upgrade the road.
Peter Fenwick, chairman of the South West Coast Joint Council, said the towns are planning a strategy meeting for October when the various companies working in the interior of the province can put forward their needs as well.
“The central island route that would connect the Burgeo Highway to the Trans-Canada around Red Indian Lake would be a major economic boost to much of the island and should become a priority for whoever forms the government after the next election,” he said.
Fenwick said the joint councils are not asking for funds meant to upgrade the current highway system be diverted to the mid-island route, but for the equivalent of the Labrador roads agreement with the federal government that would bring new money for the upgrade of the current logging roads to all season status.
He said there are potential cost savings which may prove to be of benefit including a decrease in travel time, the transportation of goods and services for consumers and a viable route for waste delivery to the designated waste site at Norris Arm.
The joint council is arranging a meeting with mining and other entities prior to the provincial Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador convention in Corner Brook in October.
“There is extensive activity in the interior of Newfoundland and it is critical these activities be supported by an adequate roads network,” Fenwick said.