Newfoundland and Labrador's transportation minister is hoping for a fruitful construction season on the Trans-Labrador Highway after a series of setbacks last year.
Over $100 million dollars of provincial and federal money has been earmarked for paving approximately 240 kilometres of gravel road in southern Labrador over the last two years, but Transportation and Works Minister Al Hawkins says work got off to a sluggish start in 2016.
"Last year we ran into some problems mobilizing the contractor," Hawkins said. "We are actively moving to get this work started."
Corner Brook-based Johnson's Construction was awarded two contracts to pave between Red Bay and Charlottetown Junction in August 2016, but Hawkins says only "preliminary work" such as surveying and gravel-crushing was completed that year.
"We should be seeing some significant work done in that particular area this summer."
In June, provincial and federal politicians announced more money to continue paving north from Charlottetown Junction toward Cartwright Junction.
Mike Kelly and Sons of Howley, N.L., won the contract to widen that section of highway ahead of paving. A transportation department spokesperson said a tender for paving will be issued in the winter.
Originally, Transportation and Works envisioned simultaneous paving on multiple stretches of the Trans-Labrador, but Hawkins says given the delays, he's doesn't know if that will happen.
"I'm not sure if there's been a change in that plan, but that was the intent."
Hawkins described the paving projects as "multi-year." The goal is to finish the entire span between Red Bay and Cartwright Junction in 2019. which the minister admits is a tight timeline.
"We're putting a lot of pressure on to make sure this work gets started quickly and we'll some good results from that this year."
More to do
On either side of the stretch to be paved are more potential projects.
To the north, the 94-kilometre Cartwright access road is unpaved, as are some 200 kilometres between Cartwright Junction and Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
To the south, the highway between Red Bay and the Quebec border is paved, but in need of repair.
Hawkins said work crews will do some maintenance on that stretch this summer.
"This is an area that has been neglected for far too long," Hawkins said. "We've already put extra resources in there to make sure that we can handle some of the safety issues.
Municipal leaders in the region have asked the department for an additional million dollars' worth of repairs. A department spokesperson says a decision on that request will be made this week.