N.L. government throwing 'unprecedented' cash at road upgrades, says transportation minister

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is promising early tenders and a $225 million budget for highway construction for 2023-24. (Shutterstock - image credit)
The Newfoundland and Labrador government is promising early tenders and a $225 million budget for highway construction for 2023-24. (Shutterstock - image credit)

The provincial government will spend what the transportation mnister calls an "unprecedented" $225 million on highway construction this year, with an emphasis on upgrading infrastructure vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

And Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Elvis Loveless is promising more announcements pending money from the federal government.

"We believe it's going to be a good year for the paving industry, contractors, workers," Loveless told reporters during an announcement in St. John's.

Jim Organ, executive director of the Heavy Civil Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, said it's welcome news after a tough few years for road builders.

He said companies hired fewer workers in recent years, but he expects that will change as the list of projects lengthens, tenders are awarded earlier, and multi-year funding allows for better planning and productivity.

"The capacity is there for whatever the provincial government decides to bring on with regards to road work, bridge work, culvert work and water and sewer activity for municipalities throughout the province," said Organ.

Terry Roberts/CBC
Terry Roberts/CBC

Most of the contracts will be for upgrades to the Trans-Canada Highway, ranging from the construction of a new interchange at Galway on the Avalon Peninsula, to paving the stretch of highway from Springdale to Baie Verte junctions, and the replacement of a culvert on the TCH near Port aux Basques. A major upgrade is also planned for Pitts Memorial Drive in St. John's.

Loveless said improvements will also take place on the Northern Peninsula, the road to the Town of Terra Nova, the Argentia access road, and sections of the Bonavista Peninsula highway.

In the past, politicians have come under fire for favouring districts represented by the governing party, but Loveless said politics has been removed from the process of deciding where tax dollars are spent.

"We're not looking at it from a lens of districts, but through a lens of the advice from the engineers," said Loveless.

Funding strategies are also influenced by factors such as traffic volumes, the need to support the tourism industry, commercial transportation and industrial sectors, and input from drivers.

The plan also includes roads with lower traffic volumes, but with significant deterioration, said Loveless, adding that most contracts should be tendered by the end of May.

In Labrador, sections of Northwest River Road (Route 520) and the approaches to Munik Pone Memorial Bridge on Route 500 will also be paved.

"We've put together a solid, balanced plan for road construction projects throughout the province," said Loveless.

Meanwhile, Organ said early tenders and multi-year planning "enables contractors to ensure work crews and equipment are ready to begin work at the start of our short construction season and it ensures the efficient utilization of resources and government funding. Early tenders support needed infrastructure being completed on time to the benefit of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians."

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