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Cape Ray road woes even before Fiona

Paul Taverner stands at the top of Hilltop Lane in Cape Ray on Monday, Sept. 19. – René J. Roy / Wreckhouse Press

CAPE RAY — Repairs might be underway in the Codroy Valley, but a little further down the highway in Cape Ray the roads continue to deteriorate. Resident Paul Taverner is among those wondering if and when the small community’s roads will get some work done.

The roads for the Local Service District (LSD) fall under the responsibility of the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure. Taverner stated that in addition to years of heavy rains, winds amd snow, a lot of the road damage is the result of heavy materials and equipment that rolled through when Emera was constructing its Maritime Link a couple of years ago.

“We were after them to do the pavement. They did a bit of pavement. They did from the graveyard out so far, probably a kilometre or so,” said Paul. “It should have been done from the highway in.”

Taverner did reach out to Emera about the damage.

“They told me, ‘This is not our responsibility. This is the provincial government road, so we’re allowed to use it.” They said they didn’t have to do the section they’d done there. They did damage the road. They definitely damaged the road.”

Aside from the main road that runs from the Trans Canada Highway through Cape Ray, the road Paul and his wife, Ivy, live on is Hill Top Road, arguably one of the worst in the area. They’ve lived there for 15 years, but the past three or four years has seen a significant amount of damage.

“This has only been happening three or four years. I don’t know if it’s the equipment or the operators. When they drop their wing in the winter to widen the road, they just drop it. They don’t lift it,” said Taverner, who believes that if the plow blade were lifted a little bit higher then it would help.

“You’re taking the shoulder of the road off and you’re hooking the pavement,” said Taverner.

He’s worried about eventual flooding in his basement because there’s no proper ditching, and what is there is quickly being filled by run off from storms and debris from road clearing.

Taverner said that he is glad that road repairs and upgrades have taken place throughout the Codroy Valley and the MacDougalls Bridge, but doesn’t understand why the provincial government couldn’t ‘share it out’ and do some work further down the coast in communities that have extensive road damage, like Cape Ray. He’s even sent photos of the problem areas to MHA Andrew Parsons (Burgeo – La Poile), but other than some patching, not much has been done to repair the roads or prevent further damage.

“Last year they got rain, cause the road was really washed out bad. Rain came up and they filled in the wash outs, and done all that with Class A,” said Taverner, who said that work wasn’t done properly and subsequently didn’t last.

Taverner estimates that the Cape Ray roads haven’t been paved in 35 or 40 years. It’s not just a nuisance, it’s also a bad look to tourists.

“We had a lot of tourists out here this year. You got to pull over, right on the other side of the road, to get clear ’cause there’s wash outs. They pass me. They shake their heads,” said Taverner. “It’s ridiculous, to have a Come Home Year and let this go on.”

Some tourists were also led astray by incorrect Google Map information that sent them towards an unpaved fire road to J. T. Cheeseman’s Provincial Park. While technically it is indeed an access point leading into the park and the beach, it is not meant for regular vehicles, motorhomes or RV trailers.

“When we had the last Come Home Year we did fix it up a little bit,” said Taverner. “It’s not fit.”

He and another neighbour often redirected tourists to the park’s main entrance, which is further along the highway.

Another significant problem area is on the Trans Canada Highway itself, near the former garbage dump. Vehicles headed to Port aux Basques must deal with a significant dip in the road that has continued to spread across the four lane section of highway. There are multiple skid marks because traffic there tends to exceed the posted 90 kph signage, and the bump ahead warning signs are too close to the problem area. Motorists have been spotted crossing the double yellow line to avoid the large dip.

“If we happen to get another big rain, we could have another problem like we had down by the weigh scales, only this time they might not be so lucky.”

In November 2021, the Trans Canada Highway collapsed in several areas due to heavy rains, including near the weigh scales. One motorist narrowly missed driving into a crevasse, and the damaged roadways isolated the Southwest Coast from the rest of the province and necessitated re-routing of the Marine Atlantic ferry service and airlift service in and out of the region.

“There’s definitely significant deterioration on the road,” agreed MHA Parsons via phone interview on Friday, Sept. 9. “I’ve had a bad summer when it comes to seeing work done and that’s for a multitude of reasons, but it’s extremely frustrating.”

Parsons has been communicating with the Dept. of Transportation, sending in photos and trying to get some of the larger problem areas addressed.

“We all know that the roads in that area took a beating from the construction of the Maritime Link, and I always thought that the proponents, the people putting the big trucks and heavy equipment across the road, should be responsible for some of that work given that they played a significant role in the degradation of the road.”

Parsons said it’s frustrating that the province is must now deal with resulting damage that is not within the normal scope of road wear and erosion. He also pointed out that there’s only so much money in the provincial budget each year for road work.

“I do think it’s just a matter of time, not a case of ‘No. That won’t happen.’ Right now you go to 40 districts and 40 MHAs and everybody is hearing it and feeling it,” said Parsons. “I’m just going to keep at it and hopefully I can get somewhere.”

Parsons is unwilling to speculate as to when the road concerns transition into a safety hazard, but he has experience with such a situation back when Route 480 collapsed.

“These engineering concerns are absolutely something the department should be aware of and I continue to bring that to them.”

When it comes to the dip near the old dump, Parsons wants people to slow down.

“Everything becomes they (the department) should fix this and that, and that’s not inaccurate, but there’s also a hell of a lot of people that are driving far too fast.”

Kathryn Summers, Media Relations Manager, for the department responded to inquiries and clarified that the dip near the old dumpsite is not another potential washout.

“The culvert at this location has been inspected and has been determined to be operating as designed. Some repairs to the road are required and the department anticipates repairs being completed this fall. Signs are in place to warn motorists to drive cautiously in this area.”

The department did not respond to questions about Cape Ray roads, but Taverner did note that some work was done last week. Specifically there was some patchwork done at the bottom of Hill Top Road and in another spot on the main road.

“Oh it’s better than what it was, yeah. Before you just had to come to a full stop just coming along, you know. A lot of people, out of town guests, if they didn’t know that was there they’d just slam right into it,” said Taverner. “It does make a difference.”

He was also advised that the crew should be back within a week or two to do more work.

“What they’re going to do is ditch the road and then probably put a bit of gravel on, and then put a patch on. That’s all I know.”

In response to email inquiriers, Dina Bartolacci Seely issued the following statement on behalf of Emera.

“As part of the Maritime Link project, we established an active Community Liaison Committee in Cape Ray to facilitate open communication with members of the community. During construction, we heard from residents who were concerned about damage to pre-existing roads in the area. We believe in doing the right things for our customers and communities so we repaired, re-shouldered, and in some areas, resurfaced provincial roads that suffered incremental damage due to the use of heavy equipment. We also built a new road from the tip of Cape Ray, approximately three kilometres inland behind the town.

“Additionally, to recognize the inconvenience related to construction activity and to support the community, we provided financial contributions to the town’s volunteer fire department and the Cape Ray Lighthouse Association.

“The Community Liaison Committee was concluded when construction of the Maritime Link was completed in 2017. As of that time, we had remediated all concerns and we remain in contact with town representatives on an ongoing basis.”

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