Helena Burden Riche has been commuting on Route 520 — North West River to Happy Valley-Goose Bay in Labrador — for the past 17 years. She is used to seeing the highway in rough condition, but says this year is the worst it’s been.
“The condition of the highway over the last few years has deteriorated a great deal,” says the North West River resident. “This year we are seeing far more potholes. There’s areas of the highway every year that get worse.
“Pavement is dwindling away before our eyes.”
Burden Riche was so frustrated with the state of the highway this spring, she made a report to the Department of Transportation about certain areas she deemed dangerous.
“We were advised at that point somebody would be down immediately to assess the situation and the next morning there was nothing done,” said Burden Riche.
“So, I waited several days to see …and it appeared no one was coming.”
Afterward, Burden Riche emailed her complaints to Lake Melville MHA Perry Trimper, who agrees the highway needs to be fixed.
“It’s getting worse,” said Trimper in an interview with The Labradorian about the 45-km stretch of highway.
“It is in a deteriorating state. There is no question it needs attention; it needs to be resurfaced. Patching isn’t really going to cut it.”
Trimper wants more residents to email their complaints and concerns about Route 520 to him, so he can build a strong case to get government funds to fix it. So far, he’s received about a dozen letters.
“What we’ve got to do is get this on the priority list for the province for attention. We’ve got some 10,000 kms of highway that the province is responsible for,” said Trimper.
“So, while this is the worst highway in our district, no question, it’s not the worst highway, unfortunately, in our province.
“I need to raise the profile of the seriousness of it.”
In the meantime, Trimper said he is in contact with the Department of Transportation and Works about what short-term fixes can be done to the highway.
“As repairs are identified, I’m communicating what I hear from the constituents,” said Trimper.
Some residents, like Burden Riche, have been less than impressed with some of the short-term solutions they’ve been seeing.
“They put out pylons all day Friday in one area; those pylons have since floated,” said Burden Riche.
“At one point they drifted to the middle of the road.
“We need a fix before somebody is killed; it’s everybody’s safety, it’s not just me.”
Trimper says for the long term, much of the highway needs to be redone and, in some places, needs a complete structural fix.
“We’ve done 15 kms in recent years… but there’s no question the whole entire section needs to be done,” said Trimper.
“Resurfacing is one thing but it’s the structural stuff we’re going to have to get at.”
Trimper recently travelled the highway with Labrador MP Yvonne Jones to attend a function in North West River. Trimper says the two discussed different scenarios for funding and estimated possible price tags for the proper fix. Trimper believed it will cost at least $10 million.
“That’s on the low end, it’s going to be substantially more than that.”
Route 520 is not listed for repairs in the recently-released five-year plan (2019 to 2023) for road upgrades in the province.