PCs take to the streets to condemn Liberals over potholes and road repair lags

·4 min read
Opposition Leader David Brazil says the provincial government is lacking on implementing road quality recommendations made by the auditor general three years ago.  (Jeremy Eaton/CBC - image credit)
Opposition Leader David Brazil says the provincial government is lacking on implementing road quality recommendations made by the auditor general three years ago. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC - image credit)
Opposition Leader David Brazil says the provincial government is lacking on implementing road quality recommendations made by the auditor general three years ago.
Opposition Leader David Brazil says the provincial government is lacking on implementing road quality recommendations made by the auditor general three years ago. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Interim PC Leader David Brazil wants the Newfoundland and Labrador government to get back on track with fixing the province's potholes, and stood in front of a freshly paved one Tuesday to make his point.

"It's a bit disheartening," said Brazil, who called a news conference by a pock-marked strip of road in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's, on the western outskirts of St. John's.

"At the end of the day, we all know everybody in Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly in the spring of the year, are facing turmoil with the road conditions."

The PCs took to the streets — literally — to showcase deteriorating road conditions as well as to call on government to step up its work on provincial roads, citing safety concerns for motorists. Brazil also accused the governing Liberals of ignoring key recommendations in a 2017 auditor general's report that focused on road improvements.

Brazil pointed to one large pothole that he said had been a particular source of frustration for motorists over the last week. It was filled in the last day.

On Friday, Auditor General Denise Hanrahan released an update to the 2017 report of recommendations. In it, she reports the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure has implemented four of eight recommendations in regard to road quality in the last three years.

Brazil said that is not good enough, and accused government of being reactive — and not proactive — in terms of road repair.

Potholes are popping up on provincial roads throughout the province, and the Tories want the provincial government to put in a system to better identify problematic areas.
Potholes are popping up on provincial roads throughout the province, and the Tories want the provincial government to put in a system to better identify problematic areas. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

"This road alone here in my district, three cars alone lost their rims last week alone, and that's indicative of every part of this province from Labrador to Conception Bay South," Brazil said.

He said the Liberals have had plenty of time: "Now, I'll give it a year or so, but over three years later the department has to answer why they haven't put that in place."

Brazil said government needs a plan to prioritize road repairs, and a system in which residents can identify troubled spots to help figure out what roads need to be fixed first.

In three years since the auditor general's report, the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure has implemented four of eight recommendations made for bettering the province's road quality.
In three years since the auditor general's report, the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure has implemented four of eight recommendations made for bettering the province's road quality. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

The recommendations in the 2017 auditor general's report that have still not been fully implemented include:

  • A system to track road conditions, identify maintenance priorities and support roadwork decisions, and evaluate how to objectively assess road conditions.

  • Development of a structured maintenance program that considers the pavement lifecycle and includes information on the type of maintenance required, maintenance schedules and frequency.

  • Establishment of a centralized location for receiving road complaints and document complaint information and action taken.

  • Improved monitoring of roadwork progress and completion.

'Always room for improvement

On Tuesday afternoon, Transportation Minister Elvis Loveless told CBC News those recommendations have not been ignored, and that government is still "investing" in provincial roads.

Loveless, who has only been in the transportation portfolio since early April, said government is proceeding with ongoing contracts worth about $82 million.

"In terms of ignoring it — I don't think we've been ignoring it. There's been investment in this province and contractors doing work throughout the province," Loveless said.

As for the having a system to track which roads need to be repaired, Loveless said one already exists internally, with a superintendent and road repair workers. Loveless added he has spoken with Hanrahan to see where that system can improve and is reviewing the province's five-year road plan.

"They have their own tracking system. They know where the potholes are. They know what shoulders of the roads need to be done. They're tracking it," he said.

"I will come out with a roads' plan early in 2022. I believe, in terms of measuring the maintenance on roads we can do a better job, no doubt. There's always room for improvement."

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