But much depends on the impact of the coronavirus, Pam Parsons admits
In the bad old broke days of the cod moratorium in the 1990s, it was the Bay-D’Espoir Highway that had the claim to being the worst stretch of road on the island. For a while in the 2000s, a span of Route 90 between Gaskier’s and St. Mary’s was so pockmarked it looked like it had been strafed by the Luftwaffe. Now it’s Harvey Street in Harbour Grace that can probably lay unwanted claim to being the worst stretch of road in Newfoundland.
But, hopes the government member for Harbour Grace – Port de Grave, Pam Parsons, that won’t be the case for too much longer.
The MHA’s hopes, however, rest on just how much work can be accomplished this coming construction season in the time of Covid.
Parsons said she has been pushing for repairs to Harbour Grace’s main road, which is part of provincial Highway Route 70, since she was elected.
“It’s safe to say that this road has been neglected for years and years, and certainly prior to my time as MHA,” said Parsons. “That being said, it is one of the top priorities of the district. This street is technically a provincial highway, but it takes multiple levels of government to work together.”
Parsons said prior to the last municipal election in 2017, there had been an appetite among the members of the then council to move forward with repairs to Harvey Street. “There was an agreement between the federal government, the provincial government, as well as that particular town council to move forward with a plan,” she said. “However, the municipal election happened and that plan was then voted down by the new council and so it was then back to the drawing board with regards to meetings.”
Parsons explained that prior to any new asphalt being laid, the underground infrastructure on Harvey Street has to be replaced, including wastewater piping.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” said Parsons. “There are two departments – Municipal Affairs and Environment as well as Transportation and works (involved). There have been multiple meetings over the years with the two councils as well as the departments and myself as MHA as well as (Avalon) MP Ken McDonald. Finally now, the long story short, this is to be done in two phases. Just last summer myself and MP Ken McDonald announced $1.13 million to the Town of Harbour Grace to complete phase 4 of Harvey Street repairs. That’s to replace the (underground) infrastructure. I also have a commitment from the (provincial) Department of Transportation and Works, which has been granted in writing, that following the town’s work to be carried out with this (infrastructure) replacement, they’ll be coming behind it then with pavement.”
Parsons said the Town has already submitted its capital works funding applications to the federal and provincial governments. She is expecting decisions on those applications sometime this spring or early summer. Phase 4, she added, will be followed up with a request for funding for Phase 5 to complete an additional section.
“It’s a top priority of the district,” Parsons repeated. “I’ve talked about it multiple, multiple, multiple times in the House of Assembly as well as in the media. That money is there, the Town has been awarded that, so now it’s in their hands to get the contract to start when the construction season allows. But as you know, with this new pandemic crisis that we’re facing, based on a safe work environment with regards to social distancing, it will be determined as to how it’s going to unfold and how that’s going to start.”
Parsons said she hears often from constituents about the state of Harvey Street. One constituent said a particular pothole was so large he was going to try ice fishing in it.
“And of course our neighbouring district of Carbonear – Trinity, Bay de Verde, they’ve received some lovely paving down there all throughout the district and my constituents see this as well and they’re deserving of the same,” Parsons added. “So it is a top priority. I’ve got a commitment from the Department of Transportation and Works, there’s lots of dialogue happening between myself and my colleague the Minister of Transportation and Works, Steve Crocker, and he is well aware that this is big on our radar.”
Another “huge priority,” said Parsons is the stretch of road from Tilton Barrens leading into Riverhead, Harbour Grace. “I’m lobbying constantly on my end as the MHA for the area… I’ve been lobbying and lobbying and lobbying. Aside from health care, roads are probably the biggest concern that you’ll hear constituents talk about. I know that all MHAs are lobbying for roadwork, and given the fiscal situation we’re facing, we’ve been warned by the minister that it’s a bleak situation with regard to our finances. But that said, I’m certainly going to do everything I can to advocate to get the appropriate roadwork done here within whatever is possible.”
Parsons added that she has been told by the minister as late as Monday that the plan for this summer’s road work is coming along, but construction this year is going to be challenging because of the pandemic.
“He said, ‘I wouldn’t advise you to make any commitments,’” said Parsons. “It’s going to be based on the pandemic.”