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Former Port Aux Basques resident says expanded highway, island removal could boost economy

A view of the Trans-Canada Highway headed west towards Port aux Basques. Road maintenance was a major topic of discussion at the recent South West Coast Joint Council meeting.
Rod Keeping believes the the existing two lane highway from Port aux Basuqes should be upgraded to four lanes. FILE/GULF NEWS

Rod Keeping thinks both projects could improve region's economy

CHANNEL-PORT AUX BASQUES, N.L. —

Recently the federal and provincial government asked for suggestions to improve the economy and Rod Keeping has a couple.

Keeping, who now lives in the St. John’s area but is originally from Port Aux Basques, had two ideas: Removing Vardy’s Island in the Channel-Port –Aux-Basques Harbour and upgrading the existing two-lane highway from PAB to four lanes, to connect with the four lanes already in place from Corner Brook and Deer Lake.

Keeping said removing the island would enhance the harbour and allow better movement of vessels during arrival, docking and departures especially in severe weather conditions

“The most important long-term gains for this ice-free port would be the improved movement of goods and people to and from the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in accordance with the Terms of Confederation,” he wrote.

This issue has been the subject of discussions between the town and the province for a few years now, and Keeping wants to see it move forward.

The twinning of the highway from PAB would also help with good and services delivery, Keeping said, and was actually part of the plan when the railway was taken out of commission in the late 1980s. He referenced the ‘’FORWARD 2000: A Newfoundland Transportation Transport Initiative" report which suggested four-lane highways on the Avalon, four lanes in central, St. John’s to Whitbourne and Corner Brook to Deer Lake.

“The rule of thumb used at that time was 10,000 vehicles daily for these areas for the four lanes,” Keeping said. “The dismal amount of 32 per cent of monies to upgrade the two lanes out of Port Aux Basques with widening shoulder in some areas and pavings et cetera, was insufficient.”

Keeping pointed out there are four Marine Atlantic vessels in service, 365 days a year, carrying in excess of 92,000 commercial vehicles per year, accounting for more than 50 per cent of all goods being shipped to and from the island.

“In addition they carry some 123,000-passenger vehicles with three years of continued growth,” he said. “It’s now time for the four-lane highway to be built from Port Aux Basques to connect with the four lanes at the Corner Brook area.”

The Gulf News reached out to Port Aux Basques Mayor John Spencer about the highway issue and he agreed it would be beneficial. However, he did say there are highways in the area that would also need some upgrading, such as the road from PAB to Codroy. He pointed out it would be an expensive proposition but an advantage if it happened.

Another suggestion Spencer had was improving the highway from Burgeo turn off to Buchans.

“Now, there would be a major initiative cutting off two hours' driving time for southwest coast and Burgeo residents in travelling across the island,” he said. “It would mean bypassing the Corner Brook access and not travel through Deer Lake. Tourist entering and exiting would have another circle-route (Argentia) option seeing the wonders of our interior.”

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