Nfld. & Labrador

Bumpy ride for spring drivers on Trans-Labrador Highway

There are many signs of spring, and the bumps, ruts and potholes on the unpaved section of the Trans-Labrador Highway (TLH) are among them. Just ask a Cartwright teacher who drives over them.

'For a highway, it is nothing I've ever been through,' says teacher

CBC file picture (Tanya Russell)

There are many signs of spring, and the bumps, ruts and potholes on the unpaved section of the Trans-Labrador Highway (TLH) are among them.

With the warmer weather and rain, the southern section can turn into a very rough ride.

The TLH in the spring was a new experience for Justin Barbour from St. John's, who teaches at Henry Gordon Academy in Cartwright.

"For a highway, it is nothing I've ever been through."

Barbour was on the TLH for a girls' ball hockey tournament this past weekend in Port Hope Simpson, in southern Labrador. He was driving a Ford Ranger, and had a couple of students with him. 

Some parents from Cartwright were in their vehicles also bringing students.

"It's only 200 km to Port Hope Simpson, but it took us nearly 4 1/2 hours going maybe 50, 60 km/h Saturday morning to get down. And that was before the rain came," said Barbour. 

Barbour said there was heavy rain in the afternoon while the girls were playing, so it was worse going back to Cartwright.

"It took us six hours to go 200 km. I don't mind giving up my weekend to go down and give the students an opportunity. But, I was really surprised, a bit much, to have to go through that, just for them to get an opportunity to play some regional school sports."

File shot of Trans-Labrador Highway (CBC)

Stress on drivers and vehicles

Barbour said he knows people in Labrador can be accepting of the conditions, but said the road is dangerous. 

"It would be unsafe if you were driving at high speeds, which you really can't, or if you happen to get stuck. Most people know that there is no service unless you carry a satellite phone, which most people do. But if you didn't, you'd be up the creek without a paddle if you happen to break down out there or get stuck in the mud."

Barbour said this trek can take its toll. 

"It's stressful on drivers. It's hard on vehicles. We have to do it again this weekend for boys. I've donated my vehicle for a couple of trips, and this weekend I'm going to give my truck a rest after going for 10 hours last Saturday."

Barbour said he will go along with the students as they head to Mary's Harbour, which is further than Port Hope Simpson, but he doesn't want to be the driver. 

"We are trying to round up rides, but not a whole lot of people want to go through that." 

People from the St. John's area would be "mind-boggled" at how bad it gets said Barbour.

He said he knows he's going to have to drive it again for other tournaments, and when he leaves Labrador in June.

The Department of Transportation and Works said it will try to improve roads as quickly as possible, and that poor conditions last for about 2 to 4 weeks.

The department said it's normally the end of April or early May before the roads are dry enough for crews to complete their work.

With files from Labrador Morning