Nfld. & Labrador

Sinkhole on Trans-Canada Highway won't be fixed until weekend

The provincial government says more time is needed to fix the sinkhole that's shutting down traffic on the TCH.

Commuter says delay in starting repairs would not be tolerated in other parts of North America

The Trans-Canada Highway in the Holyrood area will be closed for about another three days, the Newfoundland and Labrador government said Wednesday.

Crews working to repair a damaged culvert found that an adjacent culvert also needs to be replaced, the Department of Transportation and Works said Wednesday afternoon.

The highway had been scheduled to reopen on Thursday, but is now anticipated to reopen on Saturday.

Eddie Joyce, the acting minister of transportation, said there is sand falling through the top of the second culvert, damage that could only be seen once work crews dug down deep enough.

"They immediately said, 'No, this is unsafe.' So instead of waiting for it to collapse and maybe cause an injury or cause some death … we decided that, listen, let's take proactive measures here," he told reporters.

Joyce brushed off suggestions that the culvert may not have been properly maintained. He said the culvert was inspected eight or 10 years ago, and the normal lifespan is 20 years.

"It just failed," he said.

"As the mayor, Gary [Goobie] said, from Holyrood … this is a inconvenience for people but at least we're doing the proper thing for safety for the motorists and the public."

The detour for drivers through Holyrood will continue. The provincial government is asking drivers to be cautious, and obey traffic signs.

Delays unacceptable, says doctor

Meanwhile, a St. John's doctor who regularly commutes on the Trans-Canada Highway says the provincial government's slow response is a bigger problem than the sinkhole itself.

Rob Fowler, who drives from St. John's to Conception Bay North every morning, told the CBC's St. John's Morning Show on Wednesday it's inexcusable it took so long for the Department of Transportation and Works to start repairing the sinkhole, which opened on the Salmonier Line near Holyrood on Dec. 31.

"These people need to demonstrate some sort of leadership," Fowler said. "To come on and say we had a sinkhole on a major artery going to a major Canadian city, and it takes them two days to get crews out there?"

"I mean, even a vessel in distress with the Coast Guard, you don't say, 'Well, we're going to wait a couple of days after Christmas and we'll get to you.'"

The provincial government says repairs on a broken culvert are going well, but one commuter says it took too long to start work on the sinkhole. (Dept. of Transportation and Works)

That wouldn't fly anywhere else, said Fowler, who criticized the acting transportation and works minister, Eddie Joyce, for saying things were beyond the government's control, and urging drivers to take due care.

You're going to shut down a highway for two days because you can't get crews out there? There are people that would be booted out of office.- Rob Fowler

"You try doing this down in Boston. You try doing this down in New Hampshire. You try doing this down in Florida on the interstate, 95, down there," he said.

"You're going to shut down a highway for two days because you can't get crews out there? There are people that would be booted out of office. This 'due care and caution,' it's like saying, 'Have a nice day.' That's not leadership."

The Trans-Canada highway near Foxtrap has been closed since Saturday to repair damage done by heavy rain the night before. (Holyrood RCMP )

Fowler said on one day, it took him two-and-a-half hours to get from Salmonier Line to Holyrood.

He said the delay depends on the amount of traffic — and whether there are any police officers helping to move it along — but the detour can typically add 20 minutes to a one-way drive. ​

Delays help local businesses

While the traffic backups are frustrating drivers, they mean added business for some stores in Holyrood.

Melissa Sweetapple, a clerk at Wall 2 Wall Convenience, says business had been picking up from all the traffic routing through the area.

Melissa Sweetapple, a clerk at Wall 2 Wall Convenience, says "business has been pretty good, picking up a little bit because of the traffic." (CBC)

She says passengers are always stopping in to use the washroom.

"It's slowed down a bit now. The past couple of days, it's been really crazy. It looked like it was St. John's out there," she said, laughing.