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Hazardous highway conditions

Medical appointments means motorists must risk unplowed TCH


Snow covered roads on the TransCanada Highway near North Branch last Monday, Jan. 15. — Courtesy of @ Bert Osmond

By Jaymie White

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

PORT AUX BASQUES — Newfoundland and Labrador experiences brutal and harsh winters, and when residents have to travel for medical care during inclement weather, it can prove hazardous. Last week, on Monday, Jan. 15, Bert Osmond had to travel to Stephenville and the Trans Canada Highway outside of Channel-Port Aux Basques wasn’t properly plowed.

“We were going in to take my brother-in-law to Stephenville for a doctor's appointment,” said Osmond. “We had no choice because if we cancelled the appointment, he was two months waiting for nothing, and if you cancelled the appointment, then you're going to be two months, maybe six months before you get another one.”

It normally takes someone an hour and 45 minutes to reach Stephenville from Port Aux Basques, but the trip took almost an hour longer than usual because of the poor road conditions.

“It took us from quarter after eight until ten to eleven,” said Osmond. “From when I turned on the highway to Cape (Ray) until we got to North Branch, there was only one path.”

Osmond said it the trip was harrowing.

“It was terrible and scary because you had those tractor trailers coming towards you and you had other traffic coming towards you and you had to turn over,” said Osmond. “Sometimes the bumper was hitting the snow on that side because you had to make room for the vehicle that was coming towards you.”

Osmond was in a four-wheel drive vehicle, something he felt was necessary that day.

“You wouldn't have gone into it because when we got to just before Chignic Lodge there, there was a semi truck partly off road and stuck in the snow,” said Osmond. “There was a vehicle that had spun out and struck the guardrail there to North Branch, and there was two cars, a collision, just past the restaurant.”

He believes it to be the worst condition the highway has ever been in, and after he posted a photo on Facebook, many others remarked much the same thing.

“There was other people that commented, and there was another fellow that went in and he told me, he said it was the worst that he ever saw in all of his years driving, the condition that the road was into,” said Osmond. “It puts a lot of stress on you. You're trying to get somewhere and you don't know what's coming towards you or where you're going to have to go. You could have to end up trying to get out in the ditch, trying to get clear from someone because the road condition was deplorable."

Osmond did not bother to contact the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure about the road conditions.

“It's no good to contact them because they don't have any equipment here to do anything," said Osmond. “I don't know what they can do differently, but I know one thing, that the government has got to step in and supply some real good vehicles for clearance, because what they get here is all second hand equipment and it's wore out somewhere else.”

Osmond said that on his way back, later that afternoon, the conditions were much better.

In response to email inquiries, the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure made the following statement:

“Snow clearing crews start reporting to work between 4:30 a.m. and 5:00 a.m., depending on the area of the province and continue to operate until 9:30 p.m. or 10:00 p.m., as conditions require. In this particular case, the crews began plowing at the regular time, however, the snow started around 6:00 a.m. and was extremely heavy.

“There were 40 pieces of Heavy Equipment supporting snow clearing operations from five depots located between Port Aux Basque and Stephenville/Port au Port during the storm on January 15, 2024.

“In conditions like this, it is only a short while after the plow makes a pass that the road is snow covered again. Motorists can use the NL511 app to monitor snow conditions and availability of plows in the area.

“Currently, the province has 24-hour snow clearing operations on 14 of the most traveled routes in the province, as conditions warrant. In the case of emergencies on the other highways, staff are on-call and available to clear routes and escort emergency personnel after hours. As in past years, we continuously monitor weather forecasts and deploy our resources on provincially-owned roads, including rural ones, to help ensure they are plowed in a timely manner.

“We continue to remind drivers to slow down and drive to conditions. There are various tools available aimed at safe winter driving, and the motoring public is encouraged to make it a habit to use these tools before they drive on highways. This includes reports on highway driving conditions on nl511.ca; the provincial plow tracker, and weather warnings via Environment Canada forecasts.”

The following is the schedule for snowplowing operations across the province:

24-Hour Snow Clearing Operations

Avalon Region

24/7

Route 1 (TCH) – Logy Bay Road to Foxtrap (Includes the Outer Ring Road)

Route 2 (Pitts Memorial Drive/CBS Bypass) – New Gower Street to Seal Cove

Route 3A (Team Gushue Highway) – TCH to Topsail Road

24/5 (Sunday-Thursday)

Route 1 (TCH) – Foxtrap to Whitbourne

Route 75 (Veterans Memorial Highway) – TCH to Carbonear

Eastern Region

24/5 (Sunday-Thursday)

Route 1 (TCH) – Whitbourne to Clarenville

Central Region

24/5 (Sunday-Thursday)

Route 1 (TCH) – Gander to Grand Falls Windsor

Route 350 (Botwood Highway) – TCH to Botwood

Western Region

24/5 (Sunday-Thursday)

Route 1 (TCH) – Deer Lake to Stephenville (Exit 3 – Route 460, White’s Road)

Route 430 (Great Northern Peninsula Highway) – Deer Lake to Rocky Harbour

(through Gros Morne National Park – Parks Canada Jurisdiction)

Route 450/450A (Lewin Parkway/Ring Road)

Route 460 (Port au Port Highway) – TCH to the Stephenville Cold Brook Depot


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