The provincial and federal governments will spend $85, 057, 332 to pave and widen 200 km of the Trans Labrador Highway between Red Bay and Happy Valley-Goose Bay over the next year.
The cost will be split 50-50 between the province and Ottawa. The announcement was made in Happy Valley-Goose Bay last Monday.
"This is in exciting day for all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, especially Labradorians," said Service NL Minister Nick McGrath. "This is a very exciting announcement and will create local job opportunities."
The Trans Labrador highway is approximately 1,200 kilometers long. It is the only highway in the region, making it an extremely important route for those traveling across Labrador.
"It is a vital link for residents and tourists," said Minister of State (Finance) Ted Menzies, who was in Happy Valley-Goose Bay to make the official announcement.
Upgrading the Trans Labrador Highway has been a gradual and expensive procedure. The process began in 2007, when stretches of highway between Labrador City and Happy Valley Goose Bay began to be widened and paved.
This work announced last week is expected to be completed in 2014.
According to a press release from the federal and provincial governments, the province has invested $450 million into the highway since 2004.
"We are building on previous commitments to complete the Trans Labrador Highway," says Minister of Transportation and Works, Paul Davis. "The highway has, and will, continue to bring people together."
Labrador MP and Minister of Intergovernmental affairs, Peter Penashue, says that paving the highway is important so that residents and tourists have a much smoother ride than on a gravel road.
"The road is safe as it is, but it's not very comfortable," says Penashue. "Having a paved road will be more comfortable...(with the gravel) people's vehicles are always being beat up."
Lake Melville MHA Keith Russell believes that the widening and paving of the Trans Labrador Highway is a priority for Labrador. He was happy to hear about the $85 million investment.
"I think it's a great day for Labrador and for all Labradorians," says Russell. "It's a very, very, significant investment...it's great to see the federal government and provincial government coming together and recognizing this is a priority for the people."
There is no set date yet for construction to begin on the stretch of highway between Red Bay and Goose Bay. Minister Davis says he hopes to see it start sometime this year. He also says it should take three years to complete that portion of road.
Opposition House Leader, and MHA for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, Yvonne Jones, says that the section of highway that will be getting paved and widened has been getting a lot of traffic over the last several years. And with mining projects and Muskrat Falls going ahead, she anticipates the traffic to get even heavier. So she's glad to hear about the plan to do some upgrades.
"I had hoped that there would be a project to complete the entire section of highway. But having said that 200 km of highway and $85 million is a good start. It's far greater than what we have today," said Jones.
"I honestly feel that this is coming as a result of tremendous pressure that people like myself and others have applied to the government over the last little while," she added. "They know that there's so many needs in Labrador when it comes to Infrastructure, and yet they're developing another major project in Muskrat Falls and giving nothing back to the people. So I think there's a lot of guilt being felt here by the government."
The condition of the gravel surface has long been an issue with many Labradorians who are concerned about their own safety and the longevity of their vehicles. Since the widening and paving of the highway started, some have been frustrated with the length of time it's taking to get the upgrades completed.
"I think it's been exceptionally slow. I don't know what the reasons for that are, but I think it needs to be looked at," said Jones. "But if the government is spending $85 million, I don't want it spread out over 10 years. I want to see them moving fast and furious to get this work done."
Keith Russell says that Labrador's climate and terrain makes it difficult to get construction done quickly, on roads and other infrastructure.
"We have a small window of opportunity in terms of what we consider our summer in order to get work moving," says Russell. "And it's certainly not easy doing anything in Labrador when it comes to infrastructure projects...it has to be done right, so it does take time."