MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. The Committee on Supply will now be called to order.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I would call the estimates of the Department of Transportation and Public Works.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.
MS. JOAN MASSEY: Mr. Chairman, I'm pleased to rise this afternoon - this evening, whatever it is - to ask a few questions of the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. I won't be too long, maybe 15 minutes. There are three topics that I would like to try to cover, but it's probably not going to happen: the Digby Ferry, the Dartmouth Interchange that crosses over to Dartmouth Crossing, and crosswalk safety. Yesterday I had the opportunity to ask a question here regarding crosswalk safety, the issue of red lights being installed at crosswalks - maybe not all crosswalks but certain crosswalks - and whether that issue is actually being looked at by the government. Apparently, through looking at this information, we found that the Road Safety Advisory Committee was struck in 1997 to look at road safety issues and evaluate, and perhaps implement, some strategies for road safety in Nova Scotia.
When we were looking through the information that's on-line in the government Web site, the only information that we could find was a printout. We printed it off from the government Web site and I can give you a copy of it if you haven't seen it before. Yesterday, when I asked the question, the honourable minister did give some figures on fatalities in Nova Scotia back to the 1960s, 1970s, and I think he was talking about the 1980s. In Hansard he actually said 1960s and 1970s, but I think he was referring to the 1980s when there were 218 fatalities in Nova Scotia.
He's quoted in Hansard as saying since 2000 there were seven fatalities. What I'd like to know is if indeed the information I see on the Web - it sort of conflicts with that information. The government Web site Road Safety Advisory Committee information shows pictures of people crossing streets and what you should and shouldn't do for road safety, like look behind you and all these sorts of things. It says that on average one pedestrian per day is involved in a motor vehicle collision in Nova Scotia, three pedestrians per month are seriously injured and one per month is killed. Most are struck while crossing the street. Those figures seemed to be out of line with the figures that say since 2000 there were seven fatalities, that doesn't add up.
If you go by the Web site, there would be a lot more fatalities. Basically, if you went from 2000 until now with one fatality a month, you're up to 72 fatalities, so either I'm not reading it right or what have you. There's just a conflict there. Actually, the mom of Mary- Beth, Tina Chaulk, was in here yesterday. After I had asked the question, I went out into the lobby and she is indeed questioning the figures because she's wondering why there are no figures from 2001-2006. She's telling me that Transport Canada's numbers show a rise in numbers since 2004 so I'm just wondering, I'd like to clear up that one inconsistency on the government Web site with what was said yesterday and then maybe make some general comments.
HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, I thank the honourable member for the questions. I think what we need to do is make sure we understand the distinction between an accident involving a pedestrian and an accident that occurs at a crosswalk. In my response to questioning yesterday, I was responding giving the figures related to accidents that occur at crosswalks and those are the statistics that I have before me and those are the references that I made.
MS. MASSEY: Well, that's what I'm reading here. It says three pedestrians per month are seriously injured and one per month is killed, most are struck while crossing the street. So I'm presuming they're crossing in crosswalks but maybe they're not. Is that what you're saying, that there's no proof that they're actually crossing in crosswalks, they're crossing somewhere else?
MR. MACISAAC: What I'm saying is that the statistics that I'm providing relate to incidents that occur within crosswalks. We all know - and I could take the honourable
member to the main street of my town and I can show you that crosswalks are just part of the decoration because people cross hither and yon. I shouldn't say this, but some people would consider it to be safer because what they do is make sure that they get eye contact with the drivers and the drivers, once the eye contact is made, decide they're going to stop and allow the pedestrian to cross the street, whether it's in the middle of the street or wherever. They get the signal from both sides, the traffic stops and they do the cross, but it's not occurring at a crosswalk. The statistics that I'm providing are statistics that relate to incidents at crosswalks.
MS. MASSEY: If I look at the Hansard from yesterday, I'm sure it says that since 2000 there were seven fatalities. What I'm saying is that on the government Web site it says that one pedestrian per month is killed and it says most are struck while crossing crosswalks. Most - I guess that's the word that's in dispute - most are killed while crossing crosswalks so if there was one a month that's 12 and if you take since 2000 to 2006 and you add 12 that many times it's 72, which is a bit different from seven. I guess the word in question is "most", they're saying one pedestrian per month is killed and it says most are struck while crossing the street and this is off the government Web site, so I'm still finding it confusing.
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, as I listen to the honourable member, the reference that I hear her quoting, with one exception and she didn't appear to be quoting then, but what she's quoting is "while crossing the street." The distinction that I'm drawing is that there is a big difference between crossing the street and an incident that occurs in a crosswalk.
MS. MASSEY: No, you're right, but there's a large number of people who are having a big issue with what is actually happening in the crosswalks. Anyway, I'll leave it at that. I'm also wondering with the Road Safety Advisory Committee, are there are plans in the future for them to get a Web site up and going, because I think it would be very beneficial to people? I mentioned yesterday that a group of youth from Prince Andrew High School are actually trying to educate people on crosswalk safety and in fact, in September, they're going to put on some skits at the high school for Grade 9 students, bring Grade 9 students in and let them do that. They're actually producing a brochure through funds raised.
I'm also wondering if the department would have any funding available to help this group of students out in their endeavours, which I think are quite worthy. They had a meeting this morning at Tina Chaulk's house to discuss some of the things they're planning on doing. They've been out doing a petition, and what have you. So your support would be highly - even a meeting with them, maybe in the future, would be good.
So I'm just wondering, will there be a Web site coming in the future? Are there going to be some legislation changes, at least some recommendations, because that committee has been there since 1997.
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, it's my understanding that the Road Safety Advisory Committee will, in fact, be putting up a Web site, and that will be reflective of the work that they are doing and the conclusions reached by that group.
The honourable member made reference to a source of funding for a group of students wanting to do something. I think what the honourable member described is a very effective way of reaching an audience. It can be something that leaves a lasting impression with people. We don't get involved in providing direct funding to groups, but we do provide funding to the Road Safety Advisory Committee. The honourable member might want to explore that possibility with respect to providing support for the students.
We've done, and continue to monitor our programs with respect to crosswalk safety in terms of what is happening in other jurisdictions across the country. The results of that monitoring, to date, at least, indicate that we are quite consistent with what is happening in other jurisdictions.
As I indicated yesterday in answer to the question, you are always looking to see what's taking place elsewhere, and one of the ideas that I think should be explored appeared in reading my mail the other day, and that is that the flashing amber lights that sometimes are overhead in crosswalks, perhaps they should also appear at about a six-foot height. In vehicles, when you're travelling, very often you can lose sight of the overhead light because of the configuration of the vehicle or the way your seat is or you have a sun visor down or something of that nature, it is possible to lose sight of it. When I read that piece of mail, I thought to myself, this is an idea that's well worth exploring. I will be asking people, and I guess through this medium asking people to explore that possibility, and we will be doing it in response to the piece of mail that I received, at any rate.
So we are continuously looking at what's happening in other jurisdictions. We find that what we're doing now is very consistent with what is happening elsewhere.
MS. MASSEY: Mr. Chairman, the honourable minister can get back to me on this, because he may not have figures in front of him. The Dartmouth Interchange that goes over Dartmouth Crossing, I'm just wondering if, in the end, or where we're up to now, if I can get a cost on that. I've had some people in the community asking what the interchange is actually costing the taxpayers. I don't have an answer for them.
The other part to that question is, I had a complaint, someone is seeing a lot of dead fish in Lake Micmac, and they've never seen dead fish in there before, and they're wondering if it has something to do with the silt runoff from the last time it overflowed a few weeks ago, or so. If the minister has an answer right now, fine, but if not, if he could get me an answer later, it would be great. Thank you.
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, the total cost of the crossing to which the honourable member refers at Highway No. 118 is $18 million. As far as we know, and my understanding is, it's monitored on a continuing basis, we are in compliance with the work that's taking place there. We are currently in compliance with all of the environmental standards.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Queens.
MS. VICKI CONRAD: Mr. Chairman, I have a few questions here from my riding of Queens. Some of the questions are more about clarification on how paving actually happens in ridings. There has been a perception out there for many years that paving happens during election time. People equate paving and politics together and that's unfortunate, so I ask for clarification, especially for constituents, to know how paving jobs are assessed and what priorities and criteria make up the decision to pave certain areas of roadway.
In 2003 during the election and again in this recent election, I've had many constituents point out to me that they have been waiting, in some cases, for well over 40 years. In one community it has been close to 40 years waiting to see maintenance on a particular stretch of roadway through Port Mouton. Residents are also quick to point out that when paving is happening in their communities, they sometimes assess the roads themselves by saying, this particular stretch of highway really didn't need to be paved. It has been a fairly well-maintained road when you compare it to this particular community road where people have been waiting for well over 30 or 40 years to get paving. Why is the department making decisions to pave one particular road over another? I guess, there again, it's a clarification about how jobs are selected and what the criteria are for certain roads.
While doing a quick on-line bit of research on some of the tenders that most recently have been announced for the Queens riding, I noted that one of the tenders, Tender No. 60129035, an on-line tender, #2006RIM02, tender asphalt, concrete patching, shoulder gravelling, various roads in Queens, closing June 1st.
I guess when I look at various roads - when this tender is issued and when the tender is closed out and a successful contractor has maintained that bid - what are the selection criteria for the various roads? Are those various roads known prior to the tender going out or when the tender is actually put out there or when the contractor has the job?
When is it determined what roads are on the docket for asphalt patching and shoulder gravelling?
I want to talk about the asphalt patching and shoulder gravelling. Our roads in rural Nova Scotia - and I'm sure you're quite aware that Queens borders on all of our coastal communities. We have the Lighthouse Route. A lot of our connector highways from community to community - for example, if I'm travelling from Port Mouton all along the Lighthouse Route, down through Brooklyn, Summerville and Hunts Point, Beach Meadows, down through Western Head, into Brooklyn and go the Shore Road, West Berlin and down into Port Medway, a lot of those connector roads all along the coastal Lighthouse Route are really in serious disrepair in some places.
Queens has been promoting our tourism industry for a number of years. We have a wonderful selection of inlets and harbours and beaches and areas of interest for tourists who are coming into Yarmouth and coming up into Queens and travelling along our Lighthouse Route.
Unfortunately, what we've seen happen is tourists, especially those who are travelling in one of those big driving units that tourists will be travelling in, and they get on some of these rural coastal roads and they're finding themselves driving on unfamiliar territory, a lot of dangerous turns and curves that they have to manoeuvre and they have to be very aware. On top of that, when they need to straddle potholes or they don't know where the potholes are - it's different if I'm travelling around, I know where the potholes are - they end up turning around and making their way back to Highway No. 103 because they've decided that it's just too dangerous. We've had many tourists tell residents in communities that, unfortunately, they weren't able to get to Port Medway or East Port Medway or different little ports because the road conditions prevented them from doing so.
So when we talk about patching and some shoulder gravelling, for a lot of our roads that just doesn't cut it. Our roads have been in such serious disrepair for so many years now that perhaps a long-term strategy for long-term paving needs to be addressed rather than short-term solutions. It seems like when you put a patch of paving in and you're putting that in in the Spring, and winter comes along and you go through the freeze/thaw, next thing, next season, you're looking at the patching and, in some cases, either buckles or pops out.
I live on a gravel road. The gravel road is probably about three kilometres long and we have sand seal on both ends of this three-kilometre gravel road that is also a connector route for our communities, and in the Spring this gravel road is grated, the shoulders are done. In the Fall, again, it needs to be re-done because of either flooding conditions or washout or other conditions of the road make it less "travellable", I guess is the word, it is getting late.
Again, it's not a long-term solution. If the whole road was sand sealed it would probably save a lot of transportation dollars because that's more of a long-term solution than gravelling these roads twice a year; the same with the River Road that runs from South Queens into Greenfield.
So my question again is, how are the roads selected for paving and are there any long-term strategies for paving projects as opposed to just patching and little bits of shoulder work?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, the honourable member covered quite a number of topics in her comments and I'll do my best to address all of them, and in the event that I've missed one, please remind me and I'll try to deal with that.
First of all, you made reference to the connection between pavement and politics and priorities. The one thing they do have in common is that they all begin with "p", and that's a reality. However, the reference to a lot of paving occurring at election time, the reality is that's about the only time that the press bother paying any attention to the paving that goes on in the province. If I could just illustrate my point by looking at the capital budget from the year 2000 when it was $44 million, and this year it's $176 million. That is four times the amount that it was in 2000-01. That didn't happen, it didn't get quadrupled last year or this year. Gradually it has increased, because in 2000-01 it was $44 million; 2001-02 it was $63.6 million; 2002-03 it was $90.8 million; 2003-04 it was $106.8 million; 2004-05 it was $112.8 million; 2005-06, $142.8 million; and this year, $176.8 million.
So my point is that every year there was an increase whether there was an election or not, and the increase was very consistent from year to year. That's because it was a priority of the government to go ahead and spend additional funds each year on the capital program of the Department of Transportation and Public Works, for the very reasons that the honourable member mentioned in her comments, is that we have very significant infrastructure or deficit within our highway network in terms of the maintenance that's required.
In my opening comments yesterday, I indicated that we would need, over the period of the next 10 years, $4 billion if we were to bring the roads of this province to a standard that would be considered to be acceptable right across the board; we will, over the period of the next 10 years, spend $1.5 billion at the rate that we are spending it now. So the challenge is, indeed, considerable in terms of being able to address all of the problems we have with respect to the conditions of the roads.
When you ask the question, do we have a long-term strategy with respect to dealing with all this? The answer is yes, we do. Are we going to be able to meet that strategy completely? The answer is no, not at the current spending levels, but we do have, in addition to the capital program, a very ambitions RIM program which does help to provide the level of maintenance which was virtually non-existent when we came to government in 1999. The maintenance budget was very, very low and there were a lot of things just not getting done - bushes were not getting cut, ditches were filling up and not doing an appropriate job of draining the water away from the roads - so we started with the RIM program, which was $9 million in the first year that we were the government. That program has gone from $9 million, that year, up to $17.5 million this year, and next year will be the fourth year of our commitment to bring that up to a $20 million figure.
Now, in speaking about the RIM, the honourable member asked how decisions are made with respect to the expenditures, and she also made reference to a contract that was called. The contract you referenced was a contract for RIM work, and that is for RIM work in Queens County. So that contract would go out, a number of bidders would respond to the contract. How they respond is, they quote a price per ton of asphalt, or they quote a price per kilometre of ditching, or per kilometre of bush cutting, whatever the appropriate unit is - I don't know how you do guardrails, it's per metre with guardrails for instance.
The bid comes back for those components, and depending upon whether the contractor is bidding solely on guardrails or the contractor might bid on ditching and gravelling, or the contractor may bid only on the asphalt component of the advertised tender, then the local department personnel will evaluate the contracts and then make a decision with respect to the awarding of that contract. I think it's given to the low bid as long as it's a qualified contractor.
Now, where does the asphalt go? I think that's the real point of your question. The asphalt, it's determined by the local staff of the Department of Transportation and Public Works where the asphalt is placed on the roads. The same is true with respect to ditching, the local staff will determine where the ditching should take place. So the contractor then will be guided by the OS or another official within the department in consultation with the engineer as to what roads should be done. If you drive along your roads you will very often find some painting on the roadway, and that's to indicate sections that they've determined the spreader patching should occur, or you will see stakes indicating that's where they want a stretch of shoulder gravelling to take place, or if it's on a dirt road it might indicate where they want additional gravel to be placed on the road. All of that decision is taken by the local staff at the department.
I can relate to the honourable member my own practice with respect to how I get myself plugged in and involved in that process. I will meet with the local engineer and
the OS, as is deemed appropriate, at least a couple of times a year. We will discuss areas where, through my constituency office or through my own travels I have noted areas where I feel work should take place. I would, obviously, be quite interested in what the department feels is an area of priority and where it should take place.
Fortunately for me, over the years since I came back here in 1999, I have had a very good relationship with the department personnel. We've always seemed to be able to see eye to eye as to where this work should be done with respect to priorities. There's a reasonable give and take in terms of listening to the priorities that I might identify and the priorities that the local staff would identify, and the work gets done. That's how it's determined locally.
In Queens, this year, Trunk 8, there are seven kilometres of Trunk 8 being re-paved, as well as five kilometres of Route 210. The process there is one that involves the department personnel doing an evaluation of roads, but there is also, as I indicated yesterday in estimates, a process whereby the department hears on a regular basis from citizens as to what are the hot spots, so to speak, in terms of what people feel needs to be done. Then the department, obviously, is interested in the views of MLAs in terms of where they think work should be done. Very often we find ourselves in a situation where, if it's an ideal circumstance, there's a match between the department's priority and the priority of the community, either articulated by the community or the MLA. At other times, the department might have a slightly higher priority, and then there's an effort made, over a period of a year or two, to try and look after both priorities. So, there is a process that's there, and there's an attempt made to address those.
One of the tools that we use is the ARAN vehicle, and that's a vehicle that is designed to go out and give a reading of the rutting in the roads, the amount of rutting, the depth of the rutting that takes place. It provides a measure of the ride that you get from a road as to how comfortable it is, I guess. We are also interested in the traffic volume that is on a road, as well.
I can remember when I was in this place before, back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, we weren't quite as sophisticated in those days in terms of how the conditions of roads were set and everything else, but one of the things they did do was count the traffic volume. I recall one particular road we wanted to get done where I got on the phone and I told everybody in the community you had better get out and go for a drive in the next few days because the traffic counter is out. We still didn't get the road done, it didn't work, but it was something - the road eventually did get done. I might point out - he tells me this - that the first job Mr. Stewart had as an engineer with the department was the paving of that particular road. So it did get done, but not in my time.
I hope I have gotten to most of the items that you raised in your comments, and knowing that you are asking the question, I believe, to learn about process and how to
do things, I hope I wasn't too long-winded, but I wanted to be as complete in my answer as possible.
MS. CONRAD: Thank you so much. Yes, you answered the questions and clarifications very well. I appreciate that, because as a new member, and transportation probably not being my forte right away, is certainly something (Interruption) Well, yes, and I was jotting notes as you were speaking.
I am pleased to hear that the seven kilometres of Highway No. 8 and the five kilometres of Route 21 - I noticed in my travels that they have been staked for some time, so I am pleased that the paving will be done to those areas.
One last question and this is in regard to the Petite Riviere bridge, it is the Sperry Bridge in Petite Riviere. This bridge has been out of commission since the flood in May 2004. I understood in a local news release during the election that this bridge was going to be repaired and replaced. So I am looking for confirmation on that for the residents in Petite Riviere, those residents who have been waiting for well over two years now for that bridge to be replaced. So if the minister could indicate what the status is on that project, and, again, I thank you.
MR. MACISAAC: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. The Sperry Bridge No. 2, is that the one you are referencing? (Interruption) That is currently being designed, and the hope is that we will have the work done on that this year. There has been an allocation of funds for it. The LaBelle Brook Bridge is also being looked at this year in terms of getting the work done.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank.
MR. PERCY PARIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will try to keep my questions very brief. I just want to mention that for the first time in 2003 - now I don't know if this was the first one we had but certainly the Beaver Bank-Kinsac area have what they call an annual town hall meeting. During that town hall meeting, all the province is invited, HRM is invited, fire, police, et cetera, all those organizations and government agencies that provide services to the communities are represented there.
I can remember very vividly in 2003, attending my first one. I have attended three since then, every year they have this community town hall meeting. One of the things I have heard repeatedly is that in 2003, according to the volume counts by HRM - and this might be confirmed by the province - that the Beaver Bank Road was then cited as being at its capacity with respect to traffic. Even since then, development hasn't decreased. In fact, if anything, development still continues to grow in the Beaver Bank-Kinsac area of the riding. So we have a road where new homes are continuing to be built. We have
a street that's been termed to be at its capacity for the last three years, at least. I guess my first question to the minister, through the chairman, is, what's on, if anything, the agenda to alleviate the traffic volumes on the Beaver Bank Road?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, the Beaver Bank Road, if we're speaking about the same road, a portion of that road, and that is the portion that is closest to Highway No. 1, it is a road of HRM, and that is the end of the road where the capacity program is the greatest. Further up the road, not far from Kinsac Road, up toward the Hants County line, in that direction, is the Transportation and Public Works road. That portion of the road is not at capacity. The portion below the Kinsac Road is at capacity, but that's a road that is under the jurisdiction of HRM. I should say, may very well be at capacity. I can't speak for certainty, but I certainly appreciate what the honourable member is saying and, if I quote him, then it's at capacity.
MR. PARIS: Maybe if I could just get some clarification. I do appreciate, and I am aware that the lower portion of the Beaver Bank Road is the jurisdiction of HRM, and Beaver Bank North, from the ball fields and the soccer fields, north, up to the county line, is in the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation and Public Works. I need some clarification, because at one time I understood - at the meeting it was discussed that there was going to be a co-operative effort between the province and HRM to have what was termed as a Beaver Bank bypass - I am quoting just some of the words I heard, which at one time was on a priority and, then, subsequently, scrapped in later years?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, I have in fact heard of the road referenced by the honourable member. My colleague, the honourable Minister of Health Promotion and Protection has pointed that out to me. As I understand the history, there was a time when it was anticipated what the corridor would be for that road. However, over time, there were subdivisions developed within the corridor of that road, so any of the work that was done with respect to that corridor is no longer able to be used, but certainly the concept is one that has been articulated.
MR. PARIS: Mr. Chairman, sticking with the theme, I guess, of the Beaver Bank Road. If we stick with Beaver Bank North, from the ball field, soccer field, north, up to the county line, one of the things I've heard repeatedly, also from those town hall meetings, year after year and more recently in this past year just prior to the election, it was cited by the RCMP and by the fire department that from the ball fields on the Beaver Bank Road to the county line in Hants County that emergency vehicles couldn't get through there after a snowstorm, that during the same snowstorm, the roads were passable from Sackville to Kinsac, but once you got to the ball fields where there was an exchange, I'm assuming with respect to plowing jurisdictions, the roads didn't become passable; 2006 wasn't the first time I heard that. I also understand the MLA before me
also had some concerns about this as well, which he spoke to at least two of those town hall meetings I was at. I'm just wondering, through the Chairman, can we look at any way to remedy that situation for those emergency vehicles?
MR. MACISAAC: The honourable member is indeed correct, his predecessor in the House has, in fact, raised that issue, and it's part of the difficulty you encounter when you have a single road that is looked after by two different jurisdictions, with one section of the road being looked after by one jurisdiction and another section by another. HRM have their routes and schedules and times, the Department of Transportation and Public Works have their own standards and their own routing, and you may wind up in other circumstances where the Department of Transportation and Public Works will be opening a portion of their road ahead of HRM and you would have the opposite situation occurring. Certainly, we do endeavour to meet our standards in all of those situations and get the roads open as quickly as possible.
MR. PARIS: Mr. Chairman, I guess, still staying on track here still with Beaver Bank North - if we can just call that Beaver Bank North from here on in - I happened to visit that section of the riding in the last couple of weeks at the request of some of the residents. What I observed is one around, and I don't know if I would reference this as ditching or trenching, but in some parts at the higher end of the Beaver Bank Road, again, going north from the ballfields up, and more in particular from I'd say Gilby Crescent going north, when I walked the shoulder of the road there seemed to be a lot of - there were times when there were even apple trees, crab apples trees growing in the ditch, very heavy growth, in particular, the civic numbers of the mid-2000 range.
As you are aware, Mr. Chairman, we've had some rain this Spring and I guess part of this summer, and I happened to be going up there on a very wet day. One of the residents, because of the lack of ditching or trenching in front of his house, had all this tubing, large white tubing connected to his neighbour's lawn, going through his lawn, to prevent flooding from his own lawn. He and I went out and walked the road and, sure enough, there was heavy growth in the ditches, themselves, which prevented the passage of water coming from both the streets, and from the skies above, to actually drain properly along the side of the road. I guess my question to the minister is, through the Chairman, is there any way that we can look at and eliminate this problem for that section of the roadway?
MR. MACISAAC: I can offer two possibilities with respect to a way of addressing the concern. You can either do the awkward route through me, and I'll work through departmental staff and the answer will come back up to you, or I can provide you with the name of the area manager, who is Bob Bieren, and give you his phone number. If you called him directly, you could bring the matter to his attention and I'm sure he'd be very pleased to meet with you. Again, I would encourage you to develop the relationship in terms of bringing matters of that nature to their attention, and do it. If it's
of interest to you, the telephone number is 424-5328. I would be very happy to be the messenger, but I think the direct route would be the most effective for you.
MR. PARIS: Mr. Chairman, through you I thank the minister for that. Maybe I could take the two-pronged approach, if it might be helpful. I will follow up with a phone call, but it might also be helpful if the minister called to alert the gentleman that I would be in touch with him directly. On a last note, because I respect the time here and I might be getting into someone else's time, but I have before me some documentation with respect to some letters that were written and received, a letter that was written by the former MLA for the riding and a letter also from the current minister and also from another minister agreeing to do some work within the riding.
I hate to do this, because, really, it has been second-hand information and I've been so wrapped up with things going on here in the House of Assembly that a number of the residents have called me concerning - one in particular, Perrin Drive with respect to resurfacing. It's my understanding that tenders were to be sought for Perrin Drive. Actually there are four here that I would just like to read out, and I can certainly table this, Mr. Chairman.
Highway No. 102, Exit 5A and 6, southbound lanes at the Aerotech and Halifax International Airport, one kilometre of grading, gravel and paving. There's another one here for Perrin Drive, from end of paving at entrance to TPW Miller Lake facility, north to end of maintained section, four kilometres. Grant Road, Trunk 2; Stage Road; Grant Road, west to end of - listing seven, eight kilometres, double-chip seal. If I could table that it would be appreciated. For the voters in my particular riding, I would just like to know what the status is on those tenders.
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, the first job the honourable member referenced is one that is currently being designed. We fully hope to have the tenders called for that work this year. The other two, which is Grant Road and Stage Road, are two resurfacing projects, and they are in the paper today, the ads for those two. They'll be taking place. I believe the third one you referenced was Perrin Drive, that is one that we had hoped to do this year. The honourable member will recall, I said there were about 12 projects that are being delayed to a Fall tender call because of the high price of liquid asphalt. Perrin Drive is one of those that we will delay. There will be a Fall call on that, and the work will be done early in the construction season next year.
MR. PARIS: Just one thing, would that be 2007?
MR. MACISAAC: Yes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.
MS. MICHELE RAYMOND: Mr. Chairman, I won't ask you to be the messenger for too many things. As I'm sure you are aware, there are numerous irritants in any constituency. They're all focused on various roads, but I think a number of those irritants, in fact, which I can specify in letters and so on, don't worry, are a function of the fact that much of my riding falls inside Halifax Regional Municipality, but many of those roads are in fact partially or entirely under provincial jurisdiction. I think, perhaps, you might be able to clarify for me something of the status of what's going on at this point.
I always describe this area as the urban shadow, that beyond the Leiblin Park Road, the Village Road at Herring Cove and out towards Sambro and Pennant, that's the Route 349 and Route 333 highways. There are also a number of side roads, the Brunt Road, Chebucto Head Road, the Duncans Cove Road, and some of the difficulty is that the ownership of those roads appears to vary enormously.
I understand that the province no longer takes on ownership of roads and I entirely understand that. However, my understanding was also that at the time of amalgamation when HRM-001 agreement was drafted, there was in fact to be a scheduled renegotiation of road responsibilities in the urban core area three years after that. That was 1999 and that review has never taken place. I have certainly written to the minister's predecessor on a number of occasions and we have correspondence in which we both agree that it was obviously time for the urban core areas of responsibility to be changed.
It's true, however, that the Capital District Transportation Authority bill, which was a meagre five-line bill and quite justifiably never did make its way into legislation, would in fact have possibly involved the renegotiation of the roads. My question is, will it be possible for renegotiation of road responsibilities, based on population density, to take place within the next year or so? What's happening is that a number of these roads are of dubious status. They may be private, which I understand. They may be provincially maintained. They may be provincially owned. They may be, of course, HRM-maintained because of an exchange of services in the outlying area which is perfectly understandable and rational, and I'm glad to know it takes place, or they may be what's called historically maintained, private roads historically maintained.
All I'm saying is that this produces an extraordinarily complicated system of jurisdictions. It makes it very difficult to know, in fact, to whom residents should be approaching. It makes it difficult for political representatives to know to what level of government they should, in fact, be addressing their correspondence. What plans are there at the moment for the renegotiation of the urban core area?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, I want to at the outset make it clear to the honourable member that we, in fact, have been involved with HRM in transferring responsibilities for roads and even during my term as minister, I signed the documents that transferred over 60 kilometres of road in the Hammonds Plains area from the province to HRM, and we are very open to further discussions because we agree completely with the honourable member. Some of these are very difficult, and the confusion that's created is something we would like to get rid of. So our door is always open to those discussions.
MS. RAYMOND: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister, I do very much appreciate that. Can you maybe tell me, just for my own reference, how those discussions were initiated? How is it the transfer of 60 kilometres of road at Hammonds Plains actually began?
MR. MACISAAC: I understand that there is a clause in the agreement between the province and HRM, and the triggering clause is the density clause, the population density, and once that density is achieved, then it triggers the mechanism and the process. (Interruption) Yes, 250 dwellings per square kilometre is the criteria.
MS. RAYMOND: Thank you, Mr. Minister, I think that's one of the most helpful pieces of information I've received in many years, I'm very grateful for that. I'm hoping then that that perhaps may lead to the solution of some of the problems that exist at the moment, I'm fairly sure that it will, and these, of course, concern things like sidewalks. I mean I don't think that the province is in the business of establishing sidewalks, is that correct? (Interruption) Didn't think so, I didn't think so. When it's in the HRM area, then it's just HRM puts the sidewalk along the provincial road. Does the same go for trash collection? I assume it does. Yes, okay, that's great, thank you very much.
I have a couple of anomalous places, I do have a couple of anomalies in my riding, and one of them has really driven an unusual number of people crazy. The Chebucto Head Road - I don't know if you're familiar with that situation yet. Chebucto Head Lighthouse was put up for divestiture by the federal government, so it has been in the hands of the Department of Transportation and Public Works now for some period of time. It was offered with a job lot of other lighthouses to the province some two and a half years ago, that is to say the lighthouse. Of course, in the meantime, the road that leads to Chebucto Head Road is essentially an orphan.
The federal government doesn't maintain it, it doesn't belong to the province, it falls inside HRM, of course, but HRM doesn't maintain it. Somehow or other there ended up being a group of people who, from probably the 1950s forward, have inhabited a series of bunkers and emplacements which are all surrounding the lighthouse. Even if we assume that this is a federally owned road but the federal government has no interest
in maintaining it any further, is there any mechanism for cost sharing or cost recovery of paving work from the federal government, from an upper level of government?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, I think I have a bit of a sense of the frustration the honourable member is experiencing. I have a not dissimilar situation in my own area. However, we can't get involved. It's not our road to start with, so we can't get involved in anything without the federal government initiating those discussions. Again, our door is always open with respect to responding to discussions, at least. That is not to say that we would necessarily wind up entering into an agreement, but if somebody comes knocking we will certainly answer the door, at least.
MS. RAYMOND: So am I correct in thinking that it is possible, though, for a group of citizens living on a private road to petition for the surfacing of the road, say, at their own expense? Is that right?
MR. MACISAAC: There are situations where when there is a municipal road, that municipalities will enter into agreements with the residents with respect to the resurfacing of the road, but it's a municipal policy and not one that we are involved in.
MS. RAYMOND: So there is not actually anything similar at the provincial level? So if there are people on a private road in (Interruption) Yes, okay, all right. I guess we'll have to get the federal government to come knocking at your door and ask for help then. Thank you very much.
Could I maybe mention a couple of other things. One that I'm sure you keep hearing about, and I'm just almost as confused as a number of my residents, although I don't hear about it very much, it is the rotary - no, I'm sorry, it is not the rotary, it is the roundabout. What is the status in terms of signage and education expenses so that people can be re-educated? I didn't think it was going to be that difficult but it is proving to be. I'm sure a number of people in this room know what it's turning into.
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, the authority with respect to the traffic circle is something that rests with the municipality. As the honourable member would know, we passed enabling legislation in October 2005 that would provide for traffic circles to be deemed roundabouts. The basic rule within the roundabout is that you yield to traffic that is already in the circle unless directed to do otherwise by a traffic control officer, or by appropriate lights, traffic control lights, or by signage that would change the situation. The municipal unit has the responsibility for such, either traffic control officers, lights or signage.
I would point out that the legislation that was passed in 2005 was developed in conjunction with HRM. A committee worked jointly from 2003 to develop the legislation until such time as it was passed. We recognize and we are participating with
HRM in an education program with respect to educating people of what is expected of users of that traffic circle.
Again, when there are signs in place, then the signs take precedence over the normal rules; where there's a traffic control officer, that takes precedence over the normal rules; or if there are lights installed, then the lights take precedence over the normal rules.
MS. RAYMOND: Mr. Minister, that's pretty well what I had thought, so I'm grateful to know. So it had pretty well always been within the capacity of a municipality to put up signage that would make the traffic go in whatever direction it felt like. We'll just have to make sure that the re-education takes place before the educational institutions start back in the Fall. I'm sure you know what September 1st brings. It's not a pretty sight.
The only other question that I have which would touch on a provincially owned road in my jurisdiction - oh, dear, I guess I did have two more questions. One of them is about the Ketch Harbour Road. People are basically very pleased about the extent of the Ketch Harbour Road, which has been repaved. There is a joinder, however, which goes through Sambro, it's the last couple of kilometres of the Ketch Harbour Road where it goes through Sambro and it comes to the next couple of kilometres at Acres Road on the Old Sambro Road. There is a difficulty with the condition of the pavement there, but there is also a safety condition, which I've been discussing with, I must say, the extremely capable and responsive engineers with the Department of Transportation and Public Works.
Just so you're aware of it, it's the rerouting of the road that took place in the vicinity of Sambro Fisheries. Just because it is a place that is a crook, I guess, in the road, and there's not enough room to put an eighteen-wheeler all the way into that so they find themselves backing out into traffic. I would hope that there will continue to be work on filling up the old road so that it can, in fact, be raised to a level that it can be used again. I just flagged that for your notice.
The other question I had was about the intersection of Northwest Arm Drive and the Old Sambro Road. I understand it does not qualify for a three-way stop. It's the end of a highway but it intersects with another one with fairly significant traffic flow. Is there any way to get this reconsidered? I did ask for an assessment and they felt it didn't justify it - certainly a stop light but neither a three-way stop.
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, I'm not exactly certain that I understand fully the last piece of road that was mentioned. If the honourable member would provide us with the details, we'd be glad to respond in writing with respect to that piece.
The first road, Route 349, is it? (Interruption) We're currently evaluating a response to a tender called on that. We've not awarded the job yet, but the evaluation of that tender call is taking place.
MS. RAYMOND: I would like to thank the minister very much for that. With that, I will give the rest of the time back to my colleagues who have very generously offered it to me. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Kings West.
MR. LEO GLAVINE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm certainly pleased to have the opportunity to continue with some questions to the minister. Yesterday, I did run out of time, so we're back at it here today.
When I left off I was talking about Highway No. 101, I had already asked a number of questions there. I guess it was probably late winter, early Spring, I had a meeting with the deputy minister and also with the department's head engineer and had been asking questions around the possibility of an interchange on Highway No. 101 near the Waterville area. This area, with the continued expansion and growth of Michelin, has certainly increased dramatically the truck traffic through the Waterville-Cambridge area. There's also, of course, Twin Mountain Construction, which have about 50 tractor-trailers, Howard Little Excavating and, again, with the further expansion of Michelin, probably another 15 to 20 tractor-trailers per day. It's also an area which does have two schools, a high residential area and business area in the Coldbrook area.
There have been a couple of community meetings in that area. It only affects sort of the east end of my riding, but it is an area now that I'm occasionally getting a question about; of course, it's pretty well around safety that we are getting those concerns raised. I'm just wondering at this time perhaps, could I get a bit of an update on whether there have been plans for that in the past - because I know there was, I think, purchase of some land to make this a reality - and whether or not it's a project which could be near at hand or one that's projected for down the road? Basically, Mr. Minister, I'm just wondering about a little update on the possibility of an interchange at that location.
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, I am familiar with the location that is referenced by the honourable member, and the department is aware of the interest in the community for such an interchange. It is a matter that is under consideration, but it is not at the stage where we have determined a specific date as to when the project might begin.
MR. GLAVINE: Thank you, Mr. Minister, for that update, and for the fact that it is at least there on the radar of the department in terms of possibilities.
One of the questions that I have gotten concerning a number of roads is whether or not roads get designated as connector roads, and does that bring with it a certain status and requirement for a certain type of road, certain conditions? I would just like to know a little bit of basic information around that idea. I haven't always been able to get a full answer at the local base level to that question, so I'm wondering at the department level and through the minister whether or not there is, indeed, a designation of a connector road.
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, it is my understanding that the system of connector roads was determined when the numbers were assigned to roads, and the only time that becomes altered is as a result of a twinning project, when a new connector is required and needs to get built in order to serve the interchange on new highways.
MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Chairman, that, I do perfectly understand. I am wondering, however, if that concept of a connector road would apply to two roads, for example, like Highway No. 10 to Highway No. 12, which connects the South Shore with the Annapolis Valley. Also, you get a road in between those two, like the Aylesford Road, and you then have roads that connect Highway No. 10 with Highway No. 12. Are those highways able to command, if the traffic load is there, to have a connector road, which would bridge these two together?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, I believe the honourable member correctly identified the criteria that needs to be met, and that is that it is a function of the level of economic activity and the volume of traffic that is in an area which would influence such a decision.
MR. GLAVINE: Thank you, Mr. Minister, because that is a question I often get, or it is a comment which prefaces communities' and people's desire to have roads improved. In regard to the Aylesford Road, which has the North River Road connecting it to Highway No. 12 and also the English Mountain Road, which brings it into the Kentville area, the North River Road is becoming a much greater volume of traffic year round but, in particular, during summer months. So while one section of that road has been paved and has an upgrade on it with now Aylesford Lake having probably 25,000 or 30,000 users through the course of the summer, more people living year round and so on around the lakes, it is a very intense forestry area with a lot of logging, so the number of calls over three years have certainly increased about this section of road. I am wondering whether or not - again, with the advice of your department - a road like the North River Road would, in fact, be able to have that connector status?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, I can tell the honourable member that the level of economic activity that is there is not at a point that would justify that designation, currently.
MR. GLAVINE: Thank you, Mr. Minister. Certainly, when talking about the Aylesford Road, it was one of the roads that I heard a great deal of, I guess, comments, complaints and questions around this past year, in particular, but certainly each of the years that I have been in office - winter weight restrictions. You hear positive comments and, of course, you hear some negative ones as well.
Now I would certainly conclude that this was a challenging winter. I am just wondering what it is that makes a determination around whether or not roads are going to open or close. There seemed to certainly be a bit of inconsistency this winter. I heard, again, from a number of companies, in particular, that were wanting to move their logs from this area.
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, the determination as to when roads are closed and at what time and under what circumstances they would open is based on a measure of the structural strength of the road. When the frost is coming out of the roads and before it dries the structural strength of the road is not as high as it needs to be in order to bear the weight of full truck loads. In those circumstances, it's necessary to keep the road closed. I need to point out to all of us, and all of us underwent that pressure last year of wanting to get the roads open, but if we were to yield to that pressure I can tell you that the deficit, in terms of dollars to repair roads, would be far greater than it is currently.
Once you start abusing the structural strength of the road with weights that are overweight, and the honourable member for Preston, yesterday, was making reference to the damage that's done by trucks in the normal operation when roads are open when they're overweight is something that's very damaging to the roads, and once that damage occurs, then you're into huge dollars in order to restore the road to its original strength. There are times when, yes, we will be accused of hampering commerce but, in the longer run, we're accommodating the longer-term commercial activity because we're able to keep the roads in much better shape if we respect the need to monitor the structural strength of the road and respond accordingly.
MR. GLAVINE: Thank you, Mr. Minister, for that overview. Just to follow up with one short question around this topic, is that determined by an area supervisor or does it come from somebody at the provincial department level? I'm just wondering who it is that does make that determination?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, we have about 40 stations throughout the province that have sub-ground temperature sensors, and they provide much of the information that's required.
MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Chairman, also in terms of winter conditions, I know that the department has moved to using a brine, a liquid salt-type solution, and I'm just
wondering what the department is concluding with this process. I'm wondering if it is a cheaper process. Has there been some sort of critical review as to whether this will be expanded? I'm just wondering again about that particular program.
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, the use of the liquid brine is intended to make the salt that's spread on the road more effective. What it does is it has the effect of having the salt stick to the road as soon as it hits. I don't know if the honourable member can recall, but I can recall travelling behind salt trucks, even at a safe distance behind them, very often the salt was flying up, or you could see it actually skating across the road and not staying on the road surface. So the intent of the liquid brine is, as the salt is coming out of the truck, the liquid brine is sprayed onto the salt, and so the salt is just wet enough when it hits the road surface that it sticks to it and it begins working right away in terms of doing that. We've been expanding that program over the past five years.
MR. GLAVINE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm wondering, Mr. Minister, if you could also make a quick comment in regard to the economics of one process versus the other, or perhaps it's not a stand-alone process that is used by the department?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, I probably should have prefaced my previous answer by saying the whole objective of the use of the liquid brine is to use less salt, and it is proving to be effective in that regard.
MR. GLAVINE: Less salt, Mr. Minister, moves right into my next question. Certainly in a rural area, I do get calls and have to deal with the local-based garages in terms of well problems. I'm just wondering what are the kind of readings and for how long a period of time before the department would identify one, two, three, whatever number of wells in an area that don't seem to clear up, the sodium levels are high and certainly the department perhaps may need to take some responsibility. So I'm just wondering at what point does the department say, yes, the readings here indicate that it's an ongoing problem? I am just wondering where the department would provide some help to such residents?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, what we do is we follow the Canadian drinking water standards. I'm not going to quote that number because I might be off, but anyway, there is a number, we follow that, and if it exceeds that particular number then, obviously, the well needs to be addressed. What we attempt to do in those circumstances is to flush the well so that it brings it back to an acceptable level. In some circumstances, as was mentioned by the honourable member for Digby-Annapolis last night, where it's commonplace for the salt to run and get into the drinking water, we stop the use of salt in those circumstances and use sand.
MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Chairman, one of the other areas that has been raised here in the House by a number of members over the last couple of years - and certainly I've had a couple of circumstances to deal with - is engine braking, jake brakes. There are companies that move close by residential areas and the two mix together in a rural setting. I'm wondering what sort of policy dictates whether or not signage is going to be posted and there is going to be a ban on the use of engine braking?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, in areas where there is a 50 kilometre per hour speed zone, then it is possible to post signs prohibiting the use of engine brakes. However, in areas where it is above that, there is no capacity to prohibit the use of the engine brakes.
MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Chairman, to the minister, what I am wondering, then, if there are a number of complaints coming from a residential area, and the speed in the area may be 60 kilometres versus 50 kilometres, and you have people who call up and let you know they're a shift worker and engine braking is a problem for them, and you can get a sandpit not too far from a residential, fairly high-density area, and you can get a section of road where engine braking is used considerably, I am wondering whether or not, in special circumstances, you can have that investigated by the department which may determine whether or not it would be appropriate?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, we're getting into the area of the conflict that exists between the peace and quiet of the residents and the safe operation of a vehicle. The engine brake is very much part and parcel of the safe operation of the vehicle. That's the dilemma that you face. However, having said that, it is always possible to evaluate the speed zone that's in the area to see whether there is a justification for having that speed zone lowered. If it meets the criteria, then that could possibly happen. It's an unfortunate dilemma, because the safety of the vehicles is very, very important, as well as the comfort factor of residents.
MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Minister, thank you for that very adequate explanation, which does allow for at least some flexibility within an area to at least be investigated. There was an area, when I had the winter theme going, about winter conditions and so on. I'm wondering if there are areas of the province now where electronic boards are being used to indicate that driving conditions and so on will urge motorists to drop their speed and sort of give that warning about road conditions. I'm wondering about better winter safety information for drivers, whether or not that is currently being used?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, I'm sure the honourable member knows that we do have in place the Web cams at various locations, and those are also weather stations and everything. Those pictures are updated on a regular basis, as are the conditions that exist there. So you can get a visual of the area, as well as a digital look at it. We do the road reports, which are given a couple of times a day on local radio
stations. That is available. We're also developing a capacity to be able to call in and get an indication of what road conditions are in various locations if you are planning a trip. I believe that's the extent of what we have, to date.
MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Chairman, I know, having travelled through New England in winter months, that is certainly one of the safety measures that they do have available for the travelling public. I was wondering if we had moved in that direction to some extent? I know some progress has been made for motorists to get a view of where they may be going.
One of the areas that I would say, probably over the course of a year, I get a considerable number of calls for, and that is in some areas around Kingston, Greenwood, Aylesford, in particular, that have old subdivisions where either sand seal, chip seal or, in some cases, pavement was put down maybe 30, 35, maybe even 40 years ago. I'm wondering if it's still the same program that would apply to a subdivision that at one point cost-shared the paving of the those roads, whether that's the same process that they must go through once again?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, those roads do in fact receive treatment over time, either resurfacing or putting the same surface back. There have been circumstances where, when there has been some increased local demand, shall we say, for service, that we have entered into cost-sharing arrangements with the municipalities involved to do the treatment sooner than otherwise would have been case.
MR. GLAVINE: What I was asking here, and wanting to know, if there is any change in programs in terms of cost-sharing? You have a road that has been established through a subdivision, that now is to be maintained by the Department of Transportation and Public Works, and whether or not that road, once again, would be cost-shared in order to be resurfaced, to have new pavement go in, or new chip seal, whatever may be required? Some of these subdivision are 35, 40 years since pavement was put down. So I'm just wondering under what program those may come? Is it straight municipality sharing with the province, or is it, again, the residents, through the municipality and the province, who would be cost-sharing renewal of those subdivision roads?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, if they are roads which are part of the provincial highway system, then they are roads which we, in the normal course of events, would go out and resurface from time to time. If, as I indicated previously, it's a road that's under provincial jurisdiction and there is increased demand in the area to have the road done sooner than would have been the case in our normal schedule of activity, if the municipality is prepared to enter into a cost-sharing arrangement, then we have, in those circumstances, entered into those cost-sharing agreements.
MR. GLAVINE: Thank you, Mr. Minister, for that explanation. That's where I was looking for some insight, into those subdivisions and what may be able to transpire for those residents in the future.
One of the major forms, in the past, of upgrading roads in some of the Valley areas, of course, was the sand-seal process. There was a period of time in which a tremendous amount of surfacing was done, especially along that esker area, roughly Aylesford, Berwick, west to probably Middleton. It's a process now which is not used as much. In fact, upgrading seems to be limited to very small areas. I'm wondering why that process has fallen out of favour when, in fact, some of the sand-sealed roads that were put in place and maintained on a regular basis, and I know at much more reduced costs, in fact, probably substantial cost savings, why that process has not been as in favour, if you wish, with the department in the last number of years?
MR. MACISAAC: I understand that the sand-seal surfacing is a rather expensive process. It is much more cost effective to grade and chloride the roads than it is to put the sand-seal surface down.
MR. GLAVINE: Probably, at this point, I was wondering if you could speak in terms of, if a kilometre of road is sand sealed, we're talking about a new process, versus chip sealed, versus paving, what are the general figures that are being used today for each of these methods which any and all three can improve roads in some areas? I know sand seal, in some areas, may not be preferable, but in our area, historically, it has served some of the country roads and some that have pretty good volumes of traffic. I'm just wondering what the difference is to do one kilometre using each of the processes?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, the interesting thing about this process, as minister, you learn a lot. The cost of sand seal is $4,000 per year for sand seal; the double chip seal is $200,000 per kilometre, and sand seal has to be done every year; new pavement is about $275,000. That figure depends on circumstances, of course, but those are, I believe, the figures you asked for.
MR. GLAVINE: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister. One other process that is used, certainly on the 100-Series Highways I'm familiar with, I was wondering about the cost per kilometre and when and why is micro-sealing used versus repaving our 100-Series highly-travelled roads across the province and the ones that handle most of our heavy traffic? Again, I am wondering what the cost is for micro-sealing for a kilometre, and why is it that process is used versus repaving?
MR. MACISAAC: The purpose of the micro-sealing is to extend the life of the pavement. It's not intended to be used as a repaving in any way. The cost of micro-
sealing is $60,000 per kilometre, as opposed to the cost of repaving a 100-Series Highway, which is $300,000 per kilometre.
MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Minister, I have three or four other questions to finish up with. There was one area in the budget or in the estimates here that had a decrease, and it was in regard to the budget amount allotted to field communication services. That, of course, goes to field communications and organizations such as provincial departments, volunteer public safety, like firefighters, ground search and rescue, and even to the RCMP across the province. Now, this sector certainly is very important, we know, to the safety and well-being of Nova Scotians, so I'm wondering why the estimates for this budget are less than the previous one?
MR. MACISAAC: Included in that number, as well as the services that the honourable member referenced, is the amortization costs for the equipment, and the equipment is getting older now. So the cost of that amortization has decreased, and that accounts for the decline in the numbers.
MR. GLAVINE: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister. Our ground search and rescue, we realize the service they provide for us right across the province. Certainly, I think none of us would want to see a compromise in terms of support to those organizations. One of the areas locally, and again I'm sure at many of the base garages across the province, there's always a concern about equipment and the state of equipment. I think the member opposite, last night, brought this question up, as well. I'm wondering, currently, if the Berwick base is in line for any new equipment in this fiscal year? I know they speak in terms of needing equipment, and I'm just wondering if, in fact, there are any plans for something for the coming year?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, the equipment budget this year is an $8 million figure, and that's a $2 million increase over the previous year. The specifics as to where all of that is going to go is not something that I have with me currently, but we'll certainly check to see whether your area will, in fact, be impacted by this.
MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Chairman, a couple of areas to finish off on are around safety. I know it has been raised in the House here through Question Period and I think by at least one of the Opposition members, as well, and that is the issue around crosswalks, and it's one that in the Spring was highlighted by the community putting together on-line petitions for something more concrete to happen here in the province. I'm just wondering, first of all, where the responsibilities lie here in terms of municipal units and the province in terms of crosswalk safety?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, the regulations governing crosswalks are set provincially, but most crosswalks are installed and part of the cost of the municipal unit.
MR. GLAVINE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. With that, Mr. Minister, does your department currently have a plan in place to go forward with? Is it under review? Certainly the numbers and the statistics beg for greater crosswalk safety. In fact, the Deputy Speaker, and my colleague, the member for Clare, came very, very close to a crosswalk mishap just last week just down the road here; in fact, had to do the quick jump, and tap on the car or he would have been hit.
The statistics are pretty alarming in terms of the number of accidents and fatalities compared to some of the other provinces. I'm wondering where the department is going to move on this issue?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, as I indicated, it's a shared responsibility with us setting the regulations, and the municipal units, for the most part, responsible for the enforcement of the regulations around the operation of crosswalks. The department is involved with the Road Safety Advisory Committee, and that committee, on a continuing basis, monitors what's happening in terms of best practices throughout North America. As a result of that, we're continuously updated with respect to anything new that happens. Nova Scotia follows the national standard for signs and markings for crosswalks. We're always ensuring that we stay in tune with those standards and keep up to date with them. That's something that we do on a continuous basis.
Now, everybody has a responsibility when it comes to the use of crosswalks. We can design the greatest crosswalk in the world and if drivers and pedestrians are not on the alert, then, unfortunately, there will be incidents at crosswalks. Drivers have to be on the lookout for crosswalks all of the time. Drivers need to understand that at intersections there are also assumed crosswalks to be in effect. So they always have to be looking for pedestrians in those circumstances.
The pedestrians have a responsibility, as well, not to simply assume that because there is a crosswalk there that it is safe for them to go ahead and start walking across. It's not a good practice. Pedestrians, I believe, have a responsibility to make sure they get the eye of drivers and understand that the driver knows that they're about to use the crosswalk or they're in the crosswalk. That's the safe and prudent way of behaving in crosswalks. That requires the continuous program of education. That is something that we need to be cognizant of all of the time and make sure we're carrying out the appropriate efforts to remind people of their responsibilities at crosswalks, whether they be drivers of automobiles or whether they be pedestrians using the crosswalk.
MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Chairman, just two other areas around the theme of safety. One of the statistics, of course, that does come to light at certain times during the year and one which many Nova Scotians do take a look at are highway accidents, in particular, fatalities. We certainly seem to have had a rash of them in the last couple of months, I'm just wondering if that's more perception, and the media. I'm wondering how
we are faring in the first six months of 2006 and how that compares with a five-year averaging so that we kind of have a realistic picture of where we are, also any sort of trending in terms of highways or sections of highways that seem to be perhaps a bit more alarming?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, unfortunately, there has been a slight increase in the number of accidents in the last year, and the primary cause of those accidents has been driver inattention, alcohol and speed. For instance, January 1, 2000, to June 30, 2006, the speed, too fast for conditions, there were 12 of 40 accidents caused by that; 11 of 40 by driver inattention; six of 40 involving alcohol and speed; four of 40 involving alcohol alone; weather conditions, two of 40; and others. The use of safety devices, that is seat belts, could have led to a different outcome in a significant number of the motor vehicle fatalities if they had been used. Unfortunately, 10 out of 40 fatalities involved alcohol, which represents a significant increase over the same period in 2005. So, again, that is a matter of enforcement, education, and a continuous reminder. People need to be aware that speed kills, alcohol kills, and inattention, driver inattention is also responsible for a significant number.
Some of the initiatives we have been involved in, our road safety supplement appeared in The ChronicleHerald during the week of May 15, 2006, that is Canada Road Safety Week. That is one thing we do to raise awareness. The design of an alcohol ignition interlock program is set to come into effect on January 1, 2007. The new child seat belt regulation is coming into effect on January 1, 2007. These are measures which we are currently involved in, in terms of addressing this.
MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Chairman, to the minister, I had one other question but I have only about a minute left. So, at this time, I would like to thank the minister and his staff for the way in which my questioning was accommodated this evening. As the minister said, a little bit tough conditions in here with the heat we are enduring. One of the things, and one of the constants certainly for me as an MLA, is the outstanding co-operation that I get from the Berwick base, and certainly the New Minas staff, where the area manager is located. We have had a change there, but certainly good, strong relations are the commonality with the previous area manager that was given out here this evening, Mr. Bieren, who has moved to another area.
So I would like for the minister to pass on to those staff, if he is down in the Valley area at some time, the professional way in which they carry out their work. I am a person who believes in a strong professional staff, and if there is one little critical area I would say, perhaps there are maybe a few too many casuals. I am an absolute believer in strong, professional staff and development and, hopefully, that can be maintained. With that, I thank the minister for his enlightenment this evening.
MR. MACISAAC: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Simply, on behalf of the employees, I want to express my appreciation to the honourable member for his comments and for the comments of other members that have been made in the course of the estimates.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable minister for Timberlea-Prospect.
MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Not yet, Mr. Chairman, but the time will come.
Thank you, Mr. Minister, for sharing a few minutes of your time. I was wondering where Bob Bieren came from. Bob is one of the area managers, suburban, who I have the pleasure of working with. I compliment Mr. Bieren, in particular, and the men who work out of the Beechville base, there may be some women who work there, too, so I want to make sure that I pass on, again, the compliments to the particular people who work out of Beechville and the good job they do.
I guess I better get the negativity out of the way. I can't say as much for the claims department, Mr. Minister, the claims department. How many times have I heard from people who've had their mailbox snapped off by a snowplow, cracked into the back of their truck parked in their own driveway - damage not DoT's responsibility. How many times have I had complaints from people on the Prospect Road who've had various pieces of gravel or ice, whatever, that will come off a plow or come off the back of a truck and end up on a damaged windshield - not DoT's responsibility. So, you inform people, get the time, get the damage, get the details. We'll go to the claims department. I can tell you who to call, we'll send an e-mail, we'll send a fax, and the answer always comes back - not our responsibility.
I'm just wondering, aside from the fact that I do know - and to this staff, they're very responsive, they call us back, they respond in writing when we ask, but some of these cases seem to me to be the responsibility of the Department of Transportation and Public Works. They were cutting brush - the member for Digby-Annapolis will be impressed with this - they were cutting alders. The alders were cut, they were on the side, down in Blind Bay, which is a community down by the ocean. That particular night, because the wind was blowing so darn hard, the alders, the brush, end up out in the middle of the road. This young nurse is going to work early the next morning and there's brush and alders everywhere. She eventually has a problem maneuvering the car and has some damage done to her vehicle, but not DoT's responsibility.
I know I'm starting on the wrong foot, because - I've been complimentary to your staff. I would like to know how many claims the Department of Transportation and Public Works receive and how many of them were settled in favour of the claimant in the past year?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, for the 2005-06 fiscal year there were 1,170 claims made against the department, 385 payments were made, and the total amount of the payments was $2.4 million.
MR. ESTABROOKS: Thank you for the response. Those are the sorts of statistics that I can say to people, yes, there must be somebody somewhere who is getting a claim settled successfully. Maybe it's just our bad luck or maybe it's the fact that for one reason or another DoT says it's not their responsibility, and your hands are tied if you're going to go through your insurance claim or whatever, you're not far enough back from the truck, for whatever reason, but I can tell you that particular one that happened on the Prospect Road a number of years ago always baffled me.
It always baffled me, too, how it seems that the MLA for Timberlea-Prospect's mailbox always gets the you-know-what beaten out of it. I don't know whether it's the plow operator or whether it's my political colours, but I'll tell you, my mailbox should have an orange and black target on it, because it, religiously, gets dinged every winter. Sometimes, in fact, I think the other mailboxes get missed and mine gets hurt, but, hey, I'm just telling - I've never put a claim in, Heaven forbid I do that. Mr. Langille, if it still Bruce Langille, you're going to continue to hear from us, but you won't hear from my wife anymore, she has given up on our mailbox.
I'd like to turn to a topic that I've seen in a number of other jurisdictions, and that is, of course, something that maybe we should consider in this province, in the rural communities especially. Do we have such things as church signs, church zones? In rural communities, especially along older roads, and on certain Sundays or, I guess, Saturday afternoons, and various other events, I do know that on Prince Edward Island they have signs that say, church ahead. I'm not saying they're asking you to reduce speed, that is not even on the list when you see that particular sign. Do we have signs anywhere in this province that designate that a church is ahead and that you should, particularly on a Sunday, slow down a little bit because there could be some church traffic?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, I'm informed that we don't have any such signs in the province.
MR. ESTABROOKS: No, I'm not going to ask that, that's too easy. Well, Prince Edward Island has them, and I think in some situations, particularly the tourist business would be interested in the fact - they give tours of churches and tours of cemeteries on Prince Edward Island. When you're coming near a church, you're looking for the cemetery attached to the church. It's not a bad idea.
Let's move from Prince Edward Island to New Brunswick. You come across the Tantramar Marshes, and let me tell you the wind is blowing - and I think the member for Cumberland North perhaps knows of the community I'm talking about - back in the
homeland as I come across to the glorious border town of Amherst. I'm coming through the Tantramar Marsh and the wind is blowing pretty good and you're trying to be attentive and you're trying to get over as far as the Slumberland, at least, where you know you can have a place to put your head down for the night - I'm on the New Brunswick side of the Missiquash - and I can tell you that coming along that stretch of the Tantramar Marsh you can run into rumble strips. The rumble strips are on the side of the road, they're on that part of the road that if you happen to drift off the shoulder of the road, suddenly you feel a rattle and you realize you have to bring it back over here because, either for inattentiveness or because of a snowstorm, or a bit of a whiteout situation, those rumble strips really are an asset in certain areas where there is blowing snow, in particular.
I know that we have them in other places, as you come up to, for example, the Cobequid Pass. I'm sure if there's a dangerous intersection, those rumble strips are of assistance. Is there anywhere in this province that we have blowing snow that's a continuous problem where we do have these rumble strips on the shoulder of the road?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, the answer to the honourable member's question is no, not yet.
MR. ESTABROOKS: Well, don't forget, we don't have the corner on great ideas all the time in this province. We can use a P.E.I. idea about church signs; we could also, of course, use the idea of rumble strips, particularly in those areas where there's blowing and drifting snow. They are of some assistance, in my opinion. That particular night, making my way across the marsh from New Brunswick to Amherst, they certainly assisted me that evening as they brought me back to realizing that's not the side of the road, or the part of the road that I want to be on. (Interruption) Well, Mount Thom is another area, because if you're aware of the fact that I have a tendency, whenever I come across Mount Thom, particularly in the winter, to want to go in the ditches. I especially want to go in the medians, but that's another topic on a windy, blowy day.
However, let's talk about medians on roads. I am always concerned about the fact, not just for the tourists looking at our medians, but the fact is that I find in certain parts of our twinned highways across this province that the deer have a wonderful feast each and every evening. If you're on the road early enough in the morning, you better keep your wits about you because the deer are going to move out of the median where they sat or ate or laid or whatever all night, and then they're going to be on the move early in the morning back into wherever they're going to be for the heat of the day to avoid that particular part of the temperature problem that they have.
I look at the medians across the province, and I haven't had the occasion, except to drive up through Amherst a few times in the last couple of weeks on the way to Prince Edward Island, the medians could stand a mowing, could stand to get the hay knocked
down in there. In fact, probably my good friend, the member for Hants East, should take some of his sheep in there, fence it off and use it and put us all with a lot of help.
I'm concerned about not just the fact that we're looking at it for tourist reasons, and the fact that, of course, we're not going to be mowing the sides of the roads, necessarily, but the medians on Highway Nos. 103 and 102 are extremely dangerous. I would think that it would be an asset, in some areas of the province, to get down in there with the proper equipment and to get those mowed. Has that ever been entertained by your department?
MR. MACISAAC: With respect to vegetation along roadways and medians, one of the objectives of our policy is to encourage as much natural vegetation and encourage the growth of species that are native to the area and able to survive in those environments. When they are mowed on a very frequent basis you lose the capacity to encourage that goal being achieved. We do in fact mow from time to time, and it's every few years that we mow, but one of the things that we do is remove any trees that grow in the medians.
MR. ESTABROOKS: I would think that in certain areas, particularly because of the frequency - and it's a question I'm going to ask about accidents here - I realize that we have to keep statistics on all kinds of things in our province, and in your department the frequency of accidents involving deer, involving animals, hopefully none of it a tragic nature, but I'm sure that your district people could tell you on certain occasions they know where there are deer crossing, they know where there are problems with animals at whatever time of the day, early morning or late at night, and I think that those areas in particular should receive attention when it comes to mowing - I'm not saying once a week, I'm saying a couple of times during the season.
I want to go back to the topic of accidents, and it was a question that my colleague from the Third Party brought forward, but I want to ask the question because I know my past colleague, the member for Dartmouth North would think us to be remiss if we didn't bring it up tonight, and that is the number of accidents that are caused not just by inattentiveness but by people on cell phones. Do we have any statistics in your department of cell phone accidents, the reason being identified by either the RCMP, city, town police on that topic?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, we have statistics for a category which is referenced as driver inattention, and that goes anywhere from reading newspapers or instruction manuals for Palm Pilots or . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: . . . putting on your makeup.
MR. MACISAAC: . . . putting on your makeup, eating your breakfast or taking the curlers out of your hair - I'm not suggesting the honourable member has to do that - and the use of cell phones are all included in that particular category. As I indicated previously, from January 1, 2006, to June 30th of this year, there were 11 of 40 fatalities that were caused by driver inattention.
MR. ESTABROOKS: Thank you for the answer. I'm aware that inattention is a problem and I want you to know that my past colleague, the member for Dartmouth North, is still concerned about the fact that we continue to have a problem with cell phones in our province. It's absolutely, at times, unbelievable what people are doing while they're driving, but cell phones continue to be a problem for sure.
A couple of specific local issues - and your staff have been responsive to these requests but I want to put them on the record - the Prospect Road intersects with the St. Margarets Bay Road, very close to the Beechville base, and on the Prospect Road as you go down to the fishing villages on the left-hand side is Exhibition Park. Exhibition Park at times, the Ideal Home Show, the Atlantic Winter Fair, the Maritime Fall Fair, graduations from our schools and so on cause huge problems, absolutely huge problems, because of the traffic and the amount of traffic that's coming out of the end of the Prospect Road, either trying to make a left or coming up the St. Margarets Bay Road trying to get down to the Prospect Road. We've asked many times for a review of having a directional green or a delayed arrow. I'm sorry if I don't have the terminology correct anymore. That would seem to me to be an ideal place, particularly when it comes to traffic coming out of Exhibition Park. When it comes to an ideal time when you look at the growth of the communities on the Prospect Road, as they're coming out of rush hour, or coming back up the road, there is no way of making that left-hand turn, it's extremely difficult.
I'm just wondering about the criteria for establishing these sorts of lights at various intersections. I mean, sometimes at peak traffic it's a huge problem, but at other times, particularly around the events that I mentioned connected with the Exhibition Park on the Prospect Road, it's not just a huge problem, it's a mammoth problem. Traffic is backed up for an hour on some occasions, and that directional green, if I can describe it that way, that left turning arrow would certainly be of great assistance. I've received the correspondence. I'm appreciative of the staff, but I'm asking the minister to please have his staff look at that again.
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, I can tell the honourable member that we do have the capacity to apply standards to situations to see whether signals are warranted, and we would be quite happy to take the situation that he described and have a look at it for him. We don't normally get involved with accommodating events. I know what happens in my own area when there are events on that significantly increase the traffic. Very often, you'll find RCMP out taking a role in the actual direction of traffic in those
circumstances, but it would be difficult to warrant going ahead and installing signal lights simply to accommodate a few events. I don't pretend to know the details of the situation the honourable member referenced, but we will, in fact, have a look at it and I'll be in communication with him with respect to that.
MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Chairman, we've brought that matter for the attention of the RCMP or Chief Beazley from the HRM, because it's one of those areas that's right on the cusp. When we're dealing with the provincial Department of Transportation and Public Works, and the responses that I received from the Beachville base are much more appropriate, not just appropriate, much more prompt than sometimes when a municipal official deals with a provincial MLA, and their first response is you have to go through your councillor, but we've had that difficulty ironed out, I think. In this case, Chief Beazley, with his roots in Whites Lake, which is one of the communities on that road, is aware of the difficulty.
I want to clarify this point and I think it's of some significance. There are two unique fishing villages in the community that I represent that have tourists as a major draw. One is the Village of Prospect, which has the High Head conservation area enclosed in it. A major attraction to naturalists, people who want to see a real practicing fishing village and not necessarily the commercialism of the neighbouring Peggy's Cove, no reflection on Peggy's Cove, but it's certainly the Village of Prospect, and High Head, in particular, that is a huge attraction for tourists. The road to Prospect, the Prospect Bay Road, is in need of an upgrade. I know it's on a list, I've been told by staff that it's on a list and it hasn't made the list this year.
There is another unique fishing village called Terence Bay. Terence Bay has the SS Atlantic. It has the Sandy Cove Lighthouse. It has the Village of Lower Prospect. Another road that is of real consequence, as you come from Porcupine Hill - I know the members are interested in me talking about Porcupine Hill, of course - down to Lower Prospect. Again, another road that will not be looked at this year for an upgrade and some work. Now I understand they haven't made the list this year, but I want to clarify, if the minister could clarify with me - of course, people live there, there are employment possibilities in those communities, particularly when it comes to the lobster industry and so on - what role does the fact that these unique fishing villages are tourist destinations, what role does that play in the decision of whether a road gets up on the priority list?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, I can tell the honourable member that the tourism destination is a factor that is taken into consideration when decisions are taken with respect to highway improvements. I am familiar with the roads the honourable member referenced, and I would hope we could see some improvement there in the very near future.
MR. ESTABROOKS: Before I share my time with my colleague, the member for Shelburne, I want to highlight the advertising campaign that the DOT staff gets involved in at certain peak times in the year. I want to compliment them for the appropriateness of the advertisements, and I want staff to please continue to use that "feather duster" ad. Anything sticks with people - you have people who will say, as they bought their new truck, and maybe it's just a Dodge Sport, like somebody I know, you put your hand outside the window and you say, this ain't no feather duster here. So continue to use those appropriate advertisements. In many cases, I know with the limited dollars at your disposal, you're doing an admirable job.
I would like to thank the staff who I work with at the province, including the claims department that I have the difficulties with, and the people at the Beachville base for the good work they do. With that, Mr. Minister, I will thank you for your time. I will turn my time over to the member for Shelburne.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Shelburne.
MR. STERLING BELLIVEAU: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, I really do appreciate this time. I believe it's a privilege and an honour to stand in this House and ask questions to the minister, and I really appreciate your time, Mr. Minister.
Perhaps you can predict my first question. The minister is very aware that Highway No. 103 is still unfinished, in particular, the Barrington area. This exchange has been scheduled for a number of years, Mr. Minister. My understanding is it is scheduled to be completed in October of this year, 2006. My first question to the minister is, Mr. Minister, is the schedule on target?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, as the honourable member would know, on that section of Highway No. 103, there are two structures that are required. The tenders have been advertised and let for those two structures, and the work should be underway, if it's not already underway. In the two structures, the paving part of the work that needs to be done, we hope to have those contracts out before the end of this month and the anticipated completion date is before the end of October. So the date that will be on the tenders would be October 31st.
MR. BELLIVEAU: Mr. Chairman, that is welcome news for the residents of Shelburne County.
The next question, Mr. Minister, the residents of Clyde River who live on a gravel road, which is roughly 10 to 15 kilometres long, have endured this particular situation for a number of years, and you alluded to the issue about gravel roads and the climate changes. I suggest to you that climate changes in southwestern Nova Scotia are unlike most places across Nova Scotia, we have a very warm climate and there are very
high fluctuations of frost moving and heaving the roads, and these people have endured this for a number of years.
I would like to point out that in Clyde River there are approximately 100 homes that are roughly 10 kilometres up this particular gravel road. This gravel road is also - there are a number of times that there are large logging trucks that frequent this road, also school buses frequent this road and, I suggest to the minister, the Clyde River runs parallel to this gravel road and the residents have been, for a number of years, inquiring - it has made the priority list for the Barrington municipal government that I was past warden of, and they identified that as the priority within that particular municipality, so my question to the minister is when will this road have an opportunity to be paved?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, that particular road is a road like a lot of roads in our province, a gravel road. Our challenge currently is to maintain the inventory of paved roads that we have and all of the resources that we have are devoted to maintaining that inventory of paved roads and, despite the fact that we have quadrupled the capital budget for the department since 2000, we still have the challenge of maintaining the inventory of paved roads that are in the province. Until such time as we feel that we have achieved that particular objective, it would be very difficult for us to entertain additional or new pavement on gravel roads.
MR. BELLIVEAU: Mr. Minister, I would like to point out, and I'd like to go on the public record as I believe, and residents across Shelburne County believe, that this particular policy is seriously flawed. I suggest to you that over a number of years, 10 to 15 years, particularly in Clyde River, there has been some major development there. There has been major development in attracting tourism to our community and people have invested, in fact, millions of dollars to locate these individuals here, and we have complaints of individuals having broken axles, their front ends falling off, and I suggest to the minister that it is difficult to promote your community when you ask tourism or tourist operators to drive their RVs - hundreds of thousands dollars - across these roads.
So I think you could understand or appreciate the frustration level that these individuals have not only in attracting tourism, but in the safety of their children. There are people whose children are on these school buses and I suggest to you that there is a danger there with this river that runs parallel to this road. There are not sufficient guardrails, so I'm suggesting, along with a number of people across Shelburne County, that this particular policy is flawed and it needs to be reviewed - and I ask the minister to review that.
My next question to the minister, Highway No. 103, my personal view is that the road has heavy traffic on it and there are areas where there has been rutting or channeling
of the road. If you follow what I'm trying to explain here, and there are a number of these areas, in particular as you approach Sable River in Shelburne County, and I'll suggest to the minister that I can prove my point if he would like to accompany me in a heavy rainstorm - and I did this once in our local council, I challenged the local RCMP, who was a sergeant at the time, to go out in a heavy rainstorm and take a drive on one of the roads in our community, and the RCMP officer took me up on this - I suggest to you, Mr. Minister, to take a drive in a heavy rainstorm in the Sable River area and where these roads are channeled, in a heavy rainstorm, they're very dangerous and there's the potential for cars to hydroplane. I think that this is unsafe. I think it's unsafe for travelling tourists, and I think it's unsafe for the travelling public across Nova Scotia. I'll put the question to the minister, has this particular issue been brought up and is there some kind of a direction or policy to address this issue?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, the honourable member's question certainly provides the opportunity for me to come back to my answer to his previous question, and that is the challenge that we have of maintaining the existing inventory of paved roads. The fact that we get roads to the point - you know, the condition the honourable member describes is indicative of the fact that we're not getting to repave roads as rapidly as we need to in order to maintain the existing inventory.
So, if I were, for example, to go ahead and agree to the honourable member's request to pave the gravel road up along the Clyde River, as he suggested, then that would delay, for another period of time, the repaving of the road to which the honourable member referenced with the rutting that's taking place. That's the simple fact, if you take money from here and you put it over there, there isn't any more money for this area. That's the challenge that we have.
Certainly, we made note of the comments of the honourable member about that particular section of paved road, and we'll make certain that it is looked at. Again, I want to point out to the honourable member that that is the challenge that we have in terms of maintaining the existing inventory of paved roads, to find sufficient funds to do it. If we were to start taking the decision to pave existing gravel roads, then that would be at the expense of properly maintaining the inventory of paved roads that we have.
MR. BELLIVEAU: Thank you, but I still want to finish my point on Highway No. 103. I believe, also, there are portions of Highway No. 103 that need to be completed. I suggest, in fact, the residents of Shelburne County suggest, that the entire Highway No. 103 needs to be completed from Barrington to Halifax. I suggest there are portions of Highway No. 103 that we ask our travelling public to reduce their speeds to 50 kilometres per hour, I believe that's in Southwest Port Mouton. I believe it's unfair and I think it's unreasonable to ask this traffic to reduce their speeds on Highway No.103.
If I can take the minister in a different direction now, on the conditions of our Trunk 3 highways, or secondary roads, or collector roads, whatever you want to call them. I refer to them in my community as the old Trunk 3. There are many areas, Mr. Minister, that we have seen some flash floods in recent years, and the residents of these particular areas have suggested that these culverts, or drainage areas, have been in place for a number of years, up to 50 years in places, and many of these culverts have been plugged or simply have been squashed from the heavy weight they have endured over the number of years. My question is, there are a number of these throughout Shelburne County, is there a scheduling or a policy in place to address the needs, especially these heavy drainage areas.
MR. MACISAAC: Those situations the honourable member describes are matters I would recommend to him that he raise with his OS, operating supervisor, or area manager in the area, and bring them to their attention. They do have maintenance budgets, and those maintenance budgets are to correct the situations to which the honourable member referred.
MR. BELLIVEAU: Well, Mr. Chairman, I believe I've asked him questions a number of times and he keeps coming back to trying to find the money, so I'll keep asking the question.
If I can take the minister in another direction for the time being. I will try to direct your attention to Exit 5, I believe the Tantallon area, where there is some construction underway right now. This was a real experience when I came to Halifax this week, and maybe because I'm from out of town, but I have a sense that if you're coming from the westward, as you move toward Exit 5, you're confronted with a two-lane highway that's reduced to two-way traffic. The false sense, you look to your left, you look to your right, and there's two lanes under construction as you enter that two-way traffic, and I feel that there's a sense of security that you give the driver that there's another highway there. This is two-way traffic, and I think there needs to be more signs showing that this is under construction and this is going to be two-way traffic for some time.
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, the honourable member certainly identifies one of the real challenges that we have when we're involved in the construction of new roads, especially when you're involved in that construction next to an existing road and ensuring that people understand what is happening. There is a very clear effort made to provide considerable signing in those circumstances, and that's one of the things that we try to pay a great deal of attention to. However, construction is not easy, and the inconveniences caused as a result of construction are, at times, a challenge to deal with.
MR. BELLIVEAU: Mr. Minister, my previous job was the Warden of the Barrington Municipality, as I pointed out earlier. One of the successful campaigns, or program, that has evolved from that particular time was the clean the highway program
held by our municipality. That was so successful, and we had comments from our public saying how great a job the municipality did. I believe we put $30,000 in at one time, and the next year we reduced that to $20,000. The residents bought into that concept, and we could actually see the visual appearance was better in our community.
I understand that you do have the Adopt-A-Highway program. I guess my question is, why can't we form a partnership with the municipalities and pay individuals to go out and do a better job in cleaning these highways? There is a lot of litter in certain areas.
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, indeed, we are very supportive of Adopt-A-Highway programs, and we have quite a number of them across the province. The suggestion by the honourable member brings us face to face with the challenges we have under the collective agreements, and when we send people out to work, they are governed by the clauses of that collective agreement, and that makes it very challenging for us to go ahead and get involved with others in terms of doing that work. That's part of the difficulty we have and, again, it's a question of resources, if it's paying people to go out and work full time at doing that, then the same people are not clearing the culverts that the honourable member referenced.
MR. BELLIVEAU: Mr. Chairman, again, our rural areas in Shelburne County, many communities, most, if not 99 per cent of them, have no sidewalks, they simply have a shoulder of road for people to walk on. This has been brought to my attention a number of times. We have areas that are less than 20 inches wide, and the residents of communities are very concerned about the safety of their children who are getting off of school buses. These roads are frequented by heavy trucks, and they are expecting their children to travel these back to their homes. The question is, is there a certain policy in place that the shoulder of the road should be a certain distance from the pavement? This has been brought to my attention a number of times and I need to have that question addressed.
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, as the honourable member will appreciate, many of the roads we have in the province are older roads and, as a result, the standards to which they were built originally are not the same as the standards that exist today. As a result, you have conditions such as those described by the honourable member.
When we get involved in a repavement program for paved roads, then we endeavour to expand the width of the shoulder at that time and we try to have the width about a metre in length.
MR. BELLIVEAU: Mr. Chairman, to the minister. My colleague raised the question earlier about church signs. Again, this has been brought up at the local municipal level and to our superintendent at the time. There was a church in my hometown actually, the Wesleyan Church in Woods Harbour, that is on a steep grade, a blind hill, and at certain times when there are functions held there, there is a lot of traffic. This is a very treacherous or dangerous situation and I tried unsuccessfully at the municipal level to have signs installed there, to get the speed limit reduced. Again, I believe that there is a need, or a plan should be developed to address these situations such as a church.
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the comments the honourable member is making and certainly he described a situation which, from time to time in the course of a week, creates a situation where considerable care is required. As I indicated previously, we do not have such signs in the province, but certainly we deal with situations where churches are located on roads that were built quite some period of time ago and that is one of the consequences.
MR. BELLIVEAU: Mr. Minister, through you, Mr. Chairman, this question may sound as if it is a sensitive question but I believe the residents of Shelburne County want me to address this. Shelburne County watched, this last year or two, the paving projects in Chester-St. Margaret's during the last by-election, previous to this election they see four or five tenders being called in Yarmouth, and the question is why does Shelburne County not get their fair share of paving projects?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, the amount of money spent in a particular area is an amount that varies, and where the paving takes place varies from time to time. I do know that, for instance in my own riding, there were a few years where there was a lot of money spent on the repaving of Highway No. 104. Well, that didn't get to many of the county roads in my area, because if it was going on Highway No. 104 it wasn't going there.
This year, for instance in Shelburne, there is an amount of $13 million being expended in Shelburne County and I don't know that there is another county in the province that has that much money being spent. (Interruption) Timberlea-Prospect, yes - Timberlea-Prospect is just behind you by $65,000.
MR. BELLIVEAU: Well, Mr. Chairman, I think the residents of Shelburne County have been waiting 10 years for that $13 million announcement. So, spread over the 10 years, it has been long overdue.
Again, I want to thank the minister for my opportunity to speak to him on this particular evening. I do think it's a privilege. I want to thank you for your remarks and,
at this time, I would like to share my time with my colleague, the member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.
MR. LEONARD PREYRA: Mr. Chairman, I must compliment the minister on surviving what has clearly been a very long day and for still being in good form and answering most questions directly. I particularly appreciate the fact that so many Cabinet Ministers have been present at these hearings to listen to some of the questions and some of the answers. I particularly appreciate the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations being present because many of my questions touch on his area of responsibility. I know that, even though they are directed to you, I represent Halifax Citadel, and so . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Just to note to the honourable member for Halifax Citadel, you're not allowed to draw attention to the absence or presence of ministers in the Chamber.
MR. PREYRA: Sorry, Mr. Chairman. I represent Halifax Citadel, and many of my questions relate more to urban transportation than rural ones. I understand that the paving and widening of roads and highways is a really important issue to Nova Scotians, especially those who live in rural communities. I did want to ask a few questions in the time that I have to talk about whether or not the department or the government has a transportation strategy that revolves around rural transit within rural areas and that connects rural areas to urban areas?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, our department very much focuses on the provision of roads as opposed to any sort of policies that relate to public transport. That's not within the authority of the Department of Transportation and Public Works, and transit is a municipal responsibility.
MR. PREYRA: I thank the minister for his answer, but I note that the department is called the Department of Transportation and transportation does include transit within rural areas and from rural areas, and the construction of roads plays a part in getting people to and from these areas. I was wondering whether or not the department had any particular view towards the provision of public transit in this area and were making any provisions for that, and I take the answer to be a no.
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, our mandate is to provide the roadways for people to travel on. Whether they be individuals travelling, or whether it be goods travelling, or whether it be public transit travelling the roads, it's our responsibility to try to provide the roads and maintain them.
MR. PREYRA: Mr. Minister, I have questions from constituents, for example, who travel to and from urban and rural areas, wondering whether or not there is any policy around widening lanes, so people who travel on bicycles, long distances, for example, for sport or recreation, or employment, are taken into consideration when highways are being constructed?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, the honourable member is making reference to a subject matter that is of interest to a number of people who have been in contact with the department recently. Currently we do not have any policies or programs with respect to that but, as I indicated, there have been recent discussions with groups who are interested in that.
MR. PREYRA: I'm very glad to hear that, Mr. Chairman, because there are a number of people in Halifax, in the constituency of Halifax Citadel in particular, and also people who are in the travel and tourism industry who would very much like to see some provision made for people, especially Europeans who come to Halifax and Nova Scotia and enjoy biking around to our beaches and to our fishing villages, and for many of them the quality of our highways makes a big difference, especially for bicycles and using alternate transit, and certainly I would encourage further consideration of this possibility, especially for roads that are used by commuters and people who use it for travel and tourism purposes.
I'm assuming that the answer to this question is no, but I'll ask it anyway - there is, as you know, a huge demand for public transit and the main complaint seems to be that there really isn't any money for buses, or trains, or fast ferries, and I'm wondering if the minister considers this as within his area of responsibility?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, there have been two recent developments that I would draw the honourable member's attention to, which should assist in addressing the concerns which he expressed: one is the policy of the federal government with respect to providing assistance to urban transit, and that is a policy that's designed to encourage increased use of urban transit; and the other, of course, is the decision taken by the previous federal government, which was to transfer gasoline tax money to the municipalities.
One of the great challenges that municipalities have, especially urban municipalities, that was articulated as they made the case for the transfer of this money, was the expansion of public transit. So there are opportunities there and I would point out to the honourable member that of the $140-odd million that the federal government takes out of Nova Scotia in excise tax that goes to the federal coffers, we only get about $4 million of that back to expend on our highways. So if we had some of that gasoline tax money, then we might be in a position to start looking at some of the programs the honourable member would like to see us show more interest in.
MR. PREYRA: I know the minister is talking more about urban issues, but really I'm talking more about inter-regional transit and transit that addresses rural needs, because we think rural transit and public transit in particular plays a really vital role in creating job opportunities and social and economic opportunities for rural residents, and especially for younger Nova Scotians, people on low incomes who can't afford cars. Public transit in regional areas is an important opportunity. It provides them with an important opportunity, and I'm not really just talking about urban transit, and I want to know whether or not the minister feels he has any jurisdiction in addressing this need in rural communities?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, the question of rural transportation is one which is addressed somewhat by the Department of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, and they have attempted to provide opportunities for underserviced needs that exist in some parts of the province. The private sector responds. I know, from my own community into the city, there are a number of shuttle services that operate back and forth and provide excellent service to people. They are able to leave Antigonish in the morning, come to the city, do their business, and many of them are home in time for supper in the evening.
There is a lot of activity out there involved. When I think back to a day when government was, in fact, involved in providing some of that service, when I was in this place previously, I used to travel back and forth by rail liner. You pick it up on Monday morning and get in here in time for a Monday evening session, and it accounts for some of the hours that still exist in this place on Fridays, when we go in early on Fridays and get out early in the afternoon. Well, historically, the reason for doing that was so members could catch the rail liner and travel east; and west, at one stage. Unfortunately, people stopped using that method of transportation, and as a result of not using it, then the service wound up being discontinued.
It is a challenge, and one of the real challenges that exists, we will say in my own community, is the challenge of individuals who want to stay in their own homes being able to live, continue to live in rural parts of the province and come in either to get groceries, or buy their essentials, or get to a doctor's appointment or things of that nature. That is a challenge I think that faces all of us. I know it is something that the honourable Minister of Health has a real interest in, because if we are going to succeed in keeping people in their homes longer, then that form of transportation is something that needs to be addressed.
I don't know if I should get into this, I should exercise more discipline and not go there, but one of the capital assets that we have in this province is a transportation system that is operated by our school boards. That is currently dedicated completely to
the transport of students from their home to the school. One has to wonder whether there isn't any potential to look at that capital asset and see whether there is any potential for it to be used beyond that use. I think it would be a wonderful experience for children to have seniors travel with them on buses and go to town. I think it would be a wonderful link that could be provided, but that is not transportation policy, it is not health policy, it is nothing else, just a tired guy standing on his feet at 9:00 o'clock at night talking. So, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
MR. PREYRA: I very much appreciate the minister's last comments. I think it is an important conceptual approach, really, to transportation, to think about it as something that crosses across departments, and it has health implications, and economic development implications, and implications from municipalities, as well.
I have about half a minute left, as I am being told. I did want to say that even though it has been cast as a rural problem, we do have a problem in Halifax Citadel with transit with too much traffic in the city. There is a feeling that much of this traffic is coming into the city because people don't feel they have an alternative to getting into the city other than driving their cars, so we have the widening of roads in the city and, essentially, the undermining of neighbourhoods.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order. The honourable member's time has expired.
The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.
MS. DIANA WHALEN: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. It is my pleasure to have a few moments to ask some questions of the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. Again, an awful lot of the questions I am sure you have been fielding have been those from rural ridings and concerning different highways and byways that require attention. Even in the riding of Clayton Park there are a few issues that I know overlap with your responsibility and perhaps we can make some headway on them this evening.
I realize that people talked to you earlier about crosswalk safety, but I wonder if, for my help, you could speak to crosswalks and specifically the issue I wanted to raise - and I don't know if you have had a chance to discuss this with any of the other members in your time before estimates, but the idea of the half lights that have been used in HRM. The intersection is half-signalized and the lights stay at green and then they turn to amber and red when they are activated by a pedestrian. That would be on the busy street.
The example - there are two that are close to my riding, one is in the riding on Lacewood Drive and it is directly in front of the Keshen Goodman Library where there is a crosswalk and students cross there in great numbers, as well as the community going to the library, but there is a high school there as well, so there are great numbers of students back and forth on that corner on Lacewood Drive. So rather than having just the
flashing orange, which they originally put in, they switched and put in a full signalization along Lacewood, but it is pedestrian-activated. The two side streets that come out there just have stop signs.
There are only a few other intersections that I know of in HRM that have it. One of them is along Kearney Lake Road, where Dunbrack turns into Kearney Lake Road. There is one - and again, it was put in because of a lot of concern around students heading to an elementary school there, a lot of students crossing and it was felt that the half-signals would give greater safety.
I was a councillor at the time those half- signals went in on Kearney Lake Road and they made a huge difference to the community there - that had been at one of those corners where there were perennial complaints, constant concern, people always upset about near misses and a lot of calls and letters of complaint coming in, but when those lights went in, people felt a lot safer and they continue to let me know that it is so much better than it was before. So these seem to really address some issues along dangerous intersections, or intersections where people have heightened concern.
I wanted to ask the minister, have you looked at all at that in your consideration of different types of changes you could make to crosswalks to improve safety?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, by the nature of our areas of responsibility there are few instances, if any, that we can think of with respect to roads for which we have responsibility where we would want to install these devices, but we certainly support their use in municipalities, where you tend to have the greater concentration of traffic and the volume and the need for such devices. We are certainly supportive of their use by municipalities.
MS. WHALEN: Mr. Chairman, the minister makes a good point that these would probably not be needed on your provincial roads, but in your role as the Minister of Transportation you have traffic specialists, or traffic engineers and so on, and I understand you would have representation on the committee that we have talked about. As has been mentioned here, there is a crosswalk safety committee that has been in place for many years - we are a little unsure how active that committee is but, with your role as minister, would the provincial government not be in a position to actually legislate or even recommend those for a certain percentage of crosswalks or dangerous crosswalks, or identify criteria that would make those the preferred method of signalizing an intersection?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, there are a number of situations where those devices are appropriate, but they are not appropriate in all circumstances. However, when there is an appropriate use for them, we are supportive of them being used.
The committee to which the honourable member refers is the Road Safety Advisory Committee. It is very active and, as I indicated previously, they make it their business to remain current with respect to practices that take place right across North America and they ensure that the standards we put in place are the national standards for road safety. Included in road safety are the crosswalks and the use of traffic control devices at crosswalks.
MS. WHALEN: I thank the minister for his answer, and I hope that committee will also be looking at the use of half lights. I appreciate that the minister would be supportive where the need is greatest.
I wanted to ask a little bit about Highway No. 102 that comes through the Halifax Clayton Park riding, cutting through from Kearney Lake Road and on to the interface with Highway No. 103, which I'm sure you will be familiar with - I'm sure you travel that regularly, at least. I'm interested in any plans that the department might have for improving the interface when you're coming in from the South Shore on Highway No. 103 or from Timberlea and Hammonds Plains in that direction, coming into the city and then needing to take the off-ramp that takes you out again, out towards the airport, out towards Truro, or even just to Bayers Lake. The traffic has to go up a ramp, a single-lane ramp and then feed into the traffic that's coming out on Highway No. 102, out from Bayers Road and feeding out of the city.
A lot of trucks, as well, are using that overpass, and that single lane having to merge in with the traffic. It is fairly slow, and I know there have been accidents where trucks have tipped on that ramp coming off.
I'm wondering if you have any plans that will make that a more seamless interface so that Highway No. 103 wouldn't have to feed slowly into the traffic coming out of the city in order to get onto Highway No. 102. Maybe the minister could say that he's familiar with what it is I'm trying to explain. Hopefully, it's clear. I would like to know, around that interface of those two highways, do we have any plans to improve it?
MR. MACISAAC: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm familiar with the interchange the honourable member is speaking about. I can tell the honourable member that we are currently involved with HRM in a study of all of the section of highway from Bedford right out to and including the interchange that is referenced by the honourable member (Interruption) You're right, to Bayers Road. The purpose of that study, of course, is to address concerns such as the one the honourable member has brought to our attention.
MS. WHALEN: The minister will be aware of the proposed Highway No. 113 which is just - the Minister of Environment and Labour has just decided to do a more, I guess, lengthy or intense environmental assessment on it. Part of the reason for that, or maybe rationale for the proposed Highway No. 113, is to improve the connection
between Highway No. 103 and Highway No. 102. I would just suggest that if we had a better connection without the stop and go that you have at present, where the two entwine, it would be a lot better for traffic. I mean, it's about an eight-minute saving in time as it is, coming in from the point where Highway No. 113 would begin. So by making that connection smoother and perhaps less dangerous, I think would be a good plus.
Again, the proposed highway is years and years away, so given the fact that the minister had said even recently it is 15 or 20 years away, I think we do need to make those kinds of improvements. I guess as the MLA for that area that I would like to signal my interest in that being done because I think it will greatly improve the safety and the flow of traffic in that area.
On the point of improving the interface, it's not really an interchange because it's more of a ramp that simply brings you around to Highway No. 102. I hope this is part of the study. So my question to the minister would be to clarify this as part of your study, as well. I have had a number of people ask me to see that there be a dedicated lane more for almost local traffic between these various exits. There is one now. For example, if you're heading into the city coming out of Bayers Lake and you take the ramp out, there is a dedicated lane, a third lane that stays there, you don't have to merge into the traffic of the two lanes, you can stay right on it until you exit to go to the South Shore. So it goes between those two exits, which are adjacent. So coming out of Bayers Lake and taking the South Shore on the Highway No. 103 exit you have your dedicated, more of local travel, lane.
Other people in the riding have asked why isn't a similar lane between the Bayers Lake exit heading to Kearney Lake Road, for example, a third lane that would allow you to travel just between those two exits. Or the same could be said coming in from Highway No. 103, where I said the traffic has to feed into the two lanes, why not a third lane that would just take you right up to Bayers Lake and the exit at Lacewood Drive? So would that be part of the study that you're looking at, to have a third lane dedicated for just local traffic travelling between one or two exits down the road?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, what the honourable member is referencing indeed would be part of the study that I spoke about that is being undertaken by the Department of Transportation and Public Works and the Halifax Regional Municipality, and that is one of the things that they want to have a look at.
It's interesting, when you talk about the creation of those third lanes you're really talking about Highway No. 102, or the Bicentennial Highway, becoming a six-lane highway. The problem is that that six-lane highway ends at Bayers Road and you have
to wonder what happens when you dump all of that traffic onto Bayers Road. That's one of the things that obviously points to the need for the study.
The honourable member made reference to the corridor which might at some future date house a Route 113 and I just want to comment that what we are doing is attempting to preserve that corridor in the event that it is needed sometime, maybe a quarter of a century from now, into the future, because in tonight's discussions we spoke about two areas where there was a previous attempt to preserve a corridor and those corridors were lost - and I'm referencing the Hammonds Plains Road where there was an attempt to do that and that corridor was lost, and the Beaver Bank connector, which was referenced tonight, that was lost because some development took place along that and you lost the corridor, so you don't have the option of going ahead and building that road.
So the intent with Route 113 is to ensure that if at some time in the future there is such a road required, that in fact that corridor will be there and be available for the construction of a road at that time - I don't intend to be here, Mr. Chairman, when the road is built.
MS. WHALEN: Mr. Chairman, I appreciate those comments on the timeline for that proposed highway as well, or the intent at the moment. I would like to ask, since you referenced the study - and I think it's very important for all the HRM ridings on this side of the harbour to know a little bit about the study that you're currently engaged in - I wonder, could you give me some idea of two questions - three actually - what the time frame would be for results from that study, whether outside consultants are doing the study, and what the cost is?
MR. MACISAAC: We anticipate the results being available in the Fall of 2007 and the costs would be in excess of $200,000 to do that, and outside consultants, yes.
MS. WHALEN: Just a couple more questions. I wanted to ask you about roadside vegetation, and I believe you have specialists in the Department of Transportation and Public Works who look at, when you're building a new road, what kind of roadside vegetation goes in there, and I think a lot of it is natural vegetation that you look at in order to plant the sides of the roads and keep it natural and not have a lot of upkeep. My particular question around this is the whole look of the Bayers Lake exchange that comes in at Lacewood Drive. When that interchange was built, it was really left in an extremely rough and, I would have to say, ugly condition. You can go and see it today, it has been there for, I would say, 10 years - it's over 10 years now that the interchange has been there and it has not begun to beautify or grow in or soften in its appearance.
It's Lacewood Drive at Highway No. 102 - Lacewood where it goes into Bayers Lake, so it would be Chain Lake Drive and Lacewood. It was built, of course, to get into
Bayers Lake and it was done in a hurry, and that's fine, I mean it was a necessary road, it is a complete interchange, the complete diamond, but what's wrong is that the road was built and nothing at all was done to landscape it in any way. I'm not even talking about the kind of nice landscaping we see maybe as you come off the bridges and these beautiful gardens, but just something that would soften the look of it because right now it has great, deep ditches for the runoff and it has all rocks and lots of litter. The litter just collects in and around all the rocks, there are no trees. It is a real moonscape, which is what the residents describe it as. It is all provincial land - it's the four corners, basically, that I'm talking of within the interchange.
Because I know you have experts in the department, I wonder if there is any way we can return to that interchange and see if there is something that could be done. I'm thinking of something that would be natural, something that would be no maintenance and not expensive. I raised this once before - and the minister would not be aware of it - in Public Accounts when we had staff from the Department of Transportation and Public Works there. I did raise the issue that it is a problem in the community, so I wonder, could you respond to that and refer to the fact that if there is any kind of program we could access to go back in there and try to remediate it.
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, the policy of the department with respect to roadside vegetation is that we try to preserve the natural vegetation that exists in an area as much as possible. When the honourable member talked about making the area more natural, when we apply that policy to the situation, then it's about as natural as it gets because of all the rock that is there - it's just rock, and that, of course, is part of the challenge.
Again, it is a question of resources. If we are in there attempting to create an environment that is different in that area, then those are all resources that are being taken from roads and put into that area. It is part of the challenge we have. I do know what the honourable member is speaking about, I have used that interchange on a number of occasions. What we do essentially is try to ensure that the natural vegetation that exists in an area is allowed to flourish.
MS. WHALEN: Mr. Chairman, through you to the minister, thank you. I just have to point out, and perhaps you will notice it again when you visit there the next time, there really is nothing in the way of natural vegetation, it is so ugly, it is a true eyesore and it is one of the entrances to the city, and certainly the entrance to a big community, with thousands of people living in that area. I think, if I'm not mistaken, just in that section of Lacewood Drive they said - and this was a number of years ago when I was a councillor - that about 30,000 cars a day travel through that corner, so that isn't even all the way around, that was on Lacewood.
I'm thinking that it has a huge impact, and perhaps the minister would be willing to flag it for the study that is being done, that will be completed in 2007, to just look at that as one aspect. I know you're worried about traffic moving and trucks moving and goods moving around the province, but I think this is an important part because I don't believe you go in even today and build new roads and leave them in a condition that is not proper, it is not complete. I don't want anything planted that wouldn't, as I say, just grow there naturally anyway, so all we need is something that's green. It is the worst looking interchange in the entire HRM, possibly in the whole province - but I wouldn't want to take that credit.
If you could, would you consider putting it into the study, please?
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, the honourable member did allude to the nature of the study and that is that it is a functional study that we are involved with and that is what is happening. It raises the question as to whether even the consultants we would hire to do such a functional study would have the capacity to comment intelligently on what the honourable member is referencing.
However, I hear the honourable member and I appreciate that it is a concern of hers and if an opportunity presents itself to find some improvement, we will certainly be aware of it. But I'm reluctant to say, yes, we're going to get out there and make a huge change in the area. Certainly, that's one of the challenges we have with respect to scarce resources and, if we're putting it into vegetation, then we're not putting it on roads, and that's the dilemma.
MS. WHALEN: Thank you to the minister for his comment. I'm wondering if we could even ask the minister to try to find out what kind of scope there would be in a project to remediate this area. I think it's one where we could appeal to HRM to help, and perhaps the businesses in that community could help. So there might be a way of creating a partnership, but right now, as the MLA for the area, I haven't got any idea how big the project really is. So that would be a help in itself. Perhaps, to help the minister, I could write a letter and ask for a little bit of guidance, and then you can respond by letter. So I'll leave that one for the moment.
I have one final question and that is about the control for speed limits within HRM or within any municipality. We had a couple of trials in the Clayton Park area for heavy traffic streets where the city was allowed by the province to lower the speed limit to 40 kilometres per hour from 50. Right now, the rules say you can only have 50 as your lowest posted speed. So it was a special program to allow them to try it for a trial period. That was reversed, and they didn't continue with it. I think the evidence was that the traffic didn't slow down.
My feeling at the time was that HRM should have the authority to try this when and where they feel it might work, and allow their traffic engineers and their traffic authority to measure the efficacy of it and decide if they want to go forward or not. I'm wondering, has that come up in the past, have you looked at it, have there been any requests to have municipalities control their speed limits? They may choose to lower them, I would think, particularly, on heavy-traffic streets for traffic calming.
MR. MACISAAC: The experiment, if I can call it that, that the honourable member referred to, indeed, showed that when the speed limit was dropped to 40 kilometres per hour there was no change in the speed of the traffic in the area. We did that analysis in consultation with HRM, and thus the decision that was taken to reverse that. We did take a look at it and the results were not what some people had anticipated would occur. Fifty kilometres an hour is not really a great speed. The real challenge is to get people to travel at 50 or less, and posting a lower speed doesn't necessarily make that happen.
MS. WHALEN: Mr. Chairman, I have completed my questions. So I thank the minister for his answers, and his staff for being here so late on a hot night. I'm going to turn my time over to the New Democratic Party. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Hants East.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank the member from the Liberal Party for allowing us a little more time, I really appreciate it. I thought she had an excellent line of questions. I was quite impressed, actually, with her consideration of her constituency.
I'm going to have the Page deliver a page to the minister. I don't expect to see this up on any Web site, considering the quality of it, but I want to explain something to the minister and I can't think of a way. I know that Mr. Stewart would be familiar with this intersection. The area I'm talking about is Exit 9. When you're heading from Halifax to Truro - it would be Milford, what we refer to as the Milford exit - when you come off that ramp, Mr. Minister, and stay to your right and head to Highway No. 2 in the Village of Milford, you come to a stop sign at the Highway No. 2 intersection with Highway No. 14, which would go from Milford through to Windsor.
If you noticed my accurate depiction of events there, you'll see that when you come off the ramp, you're just about opposite the Milford Highway Depot on the opposite side of the road of Highway No. 14 and I have a 70 kilometre per hour sign that you see when you come off the ramp. If you notice attached to the post, it says 55 kilometres per hour and the reason it says 55 kilometres per hour, as what I've been told, is that it's a suggestion because there's a hidden driveway, a hill there, a blind crest as you head down to Highway No. 2. That 55 kilometre per hour is a recommendation, a
guideline - the actual posted speed is 70 kilometres per hour, but this is a guideline that says you might want to consider going 55 kilometres per hour because there's a hidden driveway as you go over the crest of that hill and then you approach a stop sign.
Common sense would tell me that as you go over that hill, the department is suggesting that you go 55 kilometres per hour because it's probably not going to say that after you go by that driveway speed up to 70 kilometres per hour before you hit the stop sign. It would seem to me that if you were going 55 kilometres per hour, you probably would be decelerating as you would come to that stop sign in anticipation for stopping. Now what I've approached the department on is, could we have that section from where it has a 70 kilometre per hour sign, could we make that 50 kilometres per hour as we approach the stop sign, since you're going to go slower rather than faster? That would mean that as you come off Highway No. 2 and start up Highway No. 14 at that intersection coming the opposite direction, that we could have that area posted as 50 kilometres per hour, as well, posted coming up the hill.
The department has said no, we're not going to do that. Their reasoning for doing that is, they've done the traffic analysis and their analysis tells them that the speed limit is fine there, the 70 kilometres per hour is fine. My argument back to them would be if there was no stop sign and if you came over that hill at 55 kilometres per hour or 50 kilometres per hour and then you continue for 10 kilometres on the highway, then to speed up to 70 kilometres per hour would make some sense - you go past the driveway that was a problem and then you could accelerate on your way. But if you're coming to a stop sign, that probably wouldn't make a whole lot of sense to go 70 kilometres per hour until you hit that stop sign. I guess what I'm trying to say, the residents along there - and you can see I have on the opposite side of the road four houses. Cars have wound up off the road, on the lawns of those people coming up that hill for various reasons. They're the ones who've been after a 50 kilometre per hour zone.
What I want to tell the minister before he rises and tell his engineer, and his engineer would be aware, what I refer to is the Enfield Road or the Old Enfield Road which goes from Nine Mile River to the Village of Enfield. As you're approaching probably about two miles - I would say two miles - from Nine Mile River toward Enfield, there is a hidden driveway sign on a crest of a hill to warn you of the driveway - fine. But as you come in the opposite direction heading back from Enfield to Nine Mile River, you approach the stop sign in Nine Mile River and it's a 50 kilometre per hour zone heading for a stop sign on a level stretch of road with no hill. I'm thinking here we have two very similar situations. We're approaching a stop sign, they have it posted as a 50 kilometre per hour zone with no hidden driveway at that area, it's a level stretch of road. Yet, on a blind crest with a hidden driveway approaching a stop sign, they have it as 70
kilometres per hour. I can't talk anybody into putting that down to 50 kilometres per hour.
Maybe the minister couldn't give me an answer on this, but I guess what I'm asking is if the department would just take an undertaking to take a look at these two locations and say look, this doesn't make a lot of sense in comparison to another area that has 50 kilometres per hour which doesn't have as many hazards and see whether or not it's possible. I know if they go and test the speed of drivers in that area, then probably their test is going to indicate that the speed limit isn't a problem simply because they've done it. I could argue what time of day that they did it, I could argue umpteen things. You know, when school gets out, the residents say that the students travel faster and they never come and test it at that time. I don't know how many other excuses I might be able to come up with that the residents feel is a problem, but certainly I can think of these two situations that are so similar and one has a 50 km per hour speed zone and the other has a 70 km per hour speed zone approaching a stop sign and the one with 70 km per hour has a blind crest and a hidden driveway and I can't get the department to drop that to 50 km per hour, which doesn't make sense to me. I am just wondering if the minister could have staff look at that again on Highway No. 14 near the intersection with Highway No. 2 and see whether or not it would be possible to make that speed limit 50 km per hour.
MR. MACISAAC: I thank the honourable member for his diagram, it was helpful in understanding what he was referencing. We've found it on our own atlas here, and I'm familiar with the intersection. We'd be quite happy to have the two situations analyzed and we'll get back to you.
MR. MACDONELL: I want to thank the minister. I guess if I'm going to add a caveat, it would be that I'm not looking to get the speed limit that's 50 km per hour moved up to a 70 km per hour if you're going to look at them both. I'm looking for a reduction here. (Interruption) Yes, I'm aware. The other thing, and I know your engineer would be familiar with this because one of the first meetings he and I had other than the Georgefield Road was at the municipal office in Milford around the Lantz interchange - that was in 1998. The minister may not be aware, but there is a piece of land that I understand has been set aside - it was in your discussion of trying to have land, you were talking about Hammonds Plains and some of these other areas where you lost the ability to put in a road. I think there's a piece of land that the department has been able to get a hold of with the possibility at some point in the future that there be an off-ramp or an on-ramp to come down to Highway No. 2 in Lantz.
At that time in 1998, the prediction was possibly 10 years before traffic flow and volumes, et cetera, would make this a more necessary arrangement. I want to tell the minister that certainly if you're in Elmsdale and you come off Highway No. 2 onto Highway No. 14 and head toward Highway No. 102, sometimes there's a light there and sometimes the traffic is backed up quite a ways, it's backed up almost to Highway No.
102 some evenings around 5 o'clock. I think I've written the department on this about a year ago, saying well it was seven years now so if you're going to do this, I think somebody would be making some drawings on a piece of paper. Now we're at eight years and originally it was told a possible 10 years so I'm just wondering if the department does actually have a plan for this Lantz interchange, if there's anything being worked up?
MR. MACISAAC: I understand that we have a conceptual plan for that area, but it appears that the traffic is not growing to the point where it's felt necessary to proceed at this time.
MR. MACDONELL: I think that's very similar to the response I got a year ago, so I'll just make a yearly submission and hope the answer changes. I guess I want to ask a question, you can be amazed at the things that tick people off, especially when it appears that you're doing something for them, but last summer from Noel toward Tennycape, that section was repaved and really appreciated it but what happened prior to that was that the area manager had a fair bit of patching done on that section. My understanding from talking to him was that he tried to find out whether or not that was going to be paved because he didn't want to spend the money on patching if it was going to be paved. Anyway, he couldn't get that answer, and so he patched it. He spent quite a bit. The department didn't do it, they hired a contractor. I was amazed at how people were very put out by that, even though they got pavement after that. There did not seem to be an easy way to coordinate this.
So I am just wondering, was that an oddity, the fact that an area would be patched or that an area manager would be trying to find out what was going to be paved so late in the season. He is carrying on this work and, all of a sudden, a tender goes out. I just wonder if that was an anomaly, ordinarily that doesn't happen. Is there is a way that the department has to ensure that that type of duplication doesn't happen? I don't think we get the benefit - you know when the contractor took the contract, we didn't get a lump of money to go and patch somewhere else. I am just curious about the process, I guess, that could avoid that.
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, we do our very best to avoid those situations. Unfortunately, from time to time, they do occur. It might be that more money became available for projects than had been previously anticipated, unlike the situation I am facing this year, but for the most part, we don't want to be in that kind of situation.
MR. MACDONELL: Thank you. I will hand off to my colleague. Thank you, Mr. Minister, and staff.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Pictou West.
MR. CHARLES PARKER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The minister might be pleased to know that I am the last questioner tonight, so there is an end in sight. It has been a long old stretch and a hot old stretch here over the last couple of days. It has been good that you have heard from a good number of members on this side of the House, and a good variety of concerns and questions have been coming to you. So I am going to use the last few minutes of our time to, I guess, as previous members have done, talk about a few issues in my riding.
My riding is Pictou West, and we had a chance to talk briefly on some of those issues the other day. I am going to start right in on a beautiful little island off the shore of the Northumberland Strait called Pictou Island. Perhaps the minister has had an opportunity to visit Pictou Island, I am not sure. It is visited by a lot of people this time of year, and the department ferry operates between Caribou and the island. They are some of the friendliest people you will meet, if you get a chance to go over and visit Pictou Island.
Recently I was contacted by the president of the Pictou Island Community Association. They have a concern over their road. They have only one road on the island, it runs the length of the island, about five miles. I think, Mr. Minister, you might have received a letter within the last few days. Basically, they are asking or wondering if it is possible - and I know they talked to the area manager for our county as well about this, wondering about the possibility of some used equipment that has had most of its useful life but still has perhaps some useful life in it. They are particularly looking for a grader and a truck that could haul some gravel around on the island. The road is getting pretty muddy, pretty sandy. There is very little natural gravel over there. Their request is for any used equipment your department might have that perhaps could be turned over to the community association for their use to maintain their road.
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, I will certainly take the suggestion of the honourable member under advisement and see whether that is a suggestion that is possible.
MR. PARKER: Okay, I guess perhaps I didn't hear whether you had received the letter the community association had written. It was just within the last week and perhaps it is still in transit, I don't know. Their request is coming to you in writing. They worked through area manager, Troy Webb, hoping that there is some used equipment that might be available to them.
I wanted to ask, too, as previous members had asked, the number of kilometres of road in Pictou County. I think you gave a breakdown by county to some of the other members and I'm wondering, could you tell me the number of kilometres of roads in Pictou County?
MR. MACISAAC: We're accumulating the figures here. As I see it, we're approximately one-tenth of the stock of roads that exists in the province - there's about 2,000 kilometres of road in Pictou County.
MR. PARKER: I think you're correct on that. Approximately one-tenth of the kilometres of all the roads in Nova Scotia are located in Pictou County - I think probably the chart I was given by your department some time ago showed we actually had 2,192 kilometres of road in Pictou County and, if I read the chart correctly, that's the highest number of kilometres of road of any county in this province. I would assume, or I hope that it stands to reason that we'd probably get the highest expenditure on roads in that county based on the number of kilometres that are there.
Mr. Minister, I get a tremendous amount of calls and e-mails and letters and petitions from residents in our county and I just want to take a minute to mention a couple of them. I had a letter from Lloyd MacDonald and Doug Matheson recently - very concerned about the Glengarry to Hopewell Road; I had a petition outlining the need for repairs and paving on the Braeshore Road, which is down near Pictou Lodge, if you're familiar with that area; and I had a letter from Mr. Doug White saying that the MacAulay Road was in deplorable condition and he fears getting stuck in the mud - this was dated April 10, 2006.
I mention a resolution that came from the Municipality of Pictou County asking that the Ferry Road at Caribou be repaired, the Central Caribou Road at Central Caribou, approximately three kilometres, and the Bay View Road at Bay View also needs 3.2 kilometres of repair work. I have a letter here from David Boran, who lives in the Millbrook area, asking for repair of the Millbrook Road, saying "my point is if you took the small area and stripped it down where the damage is, repaved it properly, it would last a long time."
I'll mention the Three Brooks Road in the Municipality of Pictou County. They're asking, through their councillor, that road be resurfaced. I have a letter from a lady in Cape John saying these roads are a primary concern in that area - that would include the Cape John Road, the River John Road, the Louisville Road and the West Branch Road.
Finally, an article from The Pictou Advocate during the recent election campaign, Roads Top The Election Issues for Pictou West Candidates. So, there's no shortage of roads in our area that need repair, need work, need asphalt patching, need ditching or grading or gravelling, which is a whole lot of repair that's needed.
As was mentioned, there are more kilometres of roads in Pictou County than in any other county in this province, and I just hope your department would be able to give fair and equitable treatment to all of these concerns that are in Pictou West. But, does it, Mr. Minister, make sense that the county with the largest number of kilometres would also receive the largest investment from your department? I'd just like to get your opinion on that.
MR. MACISAAC: Over time, the inventory of roads in the province receive a level of funding that's required to keep them up to standards. In any given year, the amount that's expended in one area may not be proportional to the number of roads that are there, but in any other year you may examine the figures and you'll see that more money was spent in a particular area in proportion to the amount of roads that are there. Over time, the answer to the honourable member's question is yes, it does make sense, but from any one year taken in isolation, or a couple of years taken in isolation, that may not seem to be the case. If you look at it over an extended period of time, then it is the case, or very nearly the case. I thank the honourable member.
I don't know if the honourable member anticipated my trying to answer some of the questions that were asked of me last night, or whether we should simply mail those out to members. I did undertake to provide the answers, and I have quite a few of them here. Staff worked quite hard at putting them together.
MR. PARKER: Well, if it's possible, Mr. Minister, I would appreciate it if those could be mailed out. I did have another couple of questions I wanted to ask you before our time is up, if that's okay with you. I think ten o'clock is our wrap-up time, so maybe I'll have one more question for you, then, if you have wrap-up, we can do it from there.
I just wanted to ask you again about the policy your department has for vehicle claims, if I could. I guess I've had a number of complaints in my riding on one road in particular, called Scotsburn Road, leading from Durham to Scotsburn. There are a number of damaged vehicles, and people are complaining that there are potholes there. They've called the department looking for a claim, and they were told that it wasn't reported earlier, you're not eligible for a claim. Later on, if there's a sign on the road - I guess the excuse is that the road was signed so you're not eligible for a claim.
That particular road has had four or five claim reports over the last year or so. Is there a better way to handle claims? It seems that if it happens before the sign goes up, they're not eligible because they didn't report the potholes, and if they get a claim after the sign goes up, they're not eligible because the sign is there. It just seems like a way to pass the buck. I'd just like to know is there a better way to handle people with a legitimate concern, their vehicle has been damaged and it was caused by the pothole? I'd like to ask your opinion on that, Mr. Minister, and then, certainly, you can wrap up.
MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Chairman, the real challenge when it comes to processing claims is the fact that the decision that we're taking is a decision with respect to the payment of taxpayers' money, so we do have to have in place a process that analyzes the circumstances and makes decisions with respect to those circumstances. That is a system that would appear to work very well for people who put in a claim and they get the claim paid. When people put in a claim and the claim isn't paid, then it's a system that's deemed not to work very well. As I indicated earlier, there was something like 1,100 claims made last year, and there were about 370-odd payments made out of that. So that's a fair number of payments, and it's an amount of over $2 million that is paid out to individuals.
Mr. Chairman, yesterday evening the honourable member asked, with 100-Series Highways spending versus the rest of system and maintenance costs - here it is here - in 100-Series Highways, there was $25.3 million, that's $13,800 per kilometre; on trunk roads, $24.5 million, that's $11,500 per kilometre; on the routes, $21.5 million, that's $7,900 per kilometre; paved locals, $26.9 million, which is $3,800 per kilometre; and gravel locals, $33.3 million, or $3,700 per kilometre. The bridge and operational expenditures planned for 2006-07 are $8.7 million. That's in response to the questions which you asked last night.
There was considerable discussion last night, Mr. Chairman, about scale house operations. The scale houses at Amherst - on the in section there are currently four people employed in that, and on the out section there's proposed an additional one person, with the officer in place. As I indicated last night, there are four assigned to each of these locations around the province, and for the benefit of the committee I could put a copy of that map on the table.
I was asked about the infractions, and I'm told that 0.1 per cent of the trucks were overweight, in Amherst - that's coming into the province. That question was asked last night. So that would suggest that there's a very high level of compliance in vehicles coming to the province. I was asked how many tickets were issued - there were 3,193 tickets issued and, for the weights and dimensions and vehicle regulations, there were 1,820 tickets issued in the course of the previous year.
Mr. Chairman, I see that time is moving on. I want to express our appreciation to the members of your committee for the questions and the comments that they made with respect to the estimates of the Department of Transportation and Public Works. I do want to pay tribute to staff from Treasury and Policy Board, who were here for the eight-plus hours even though there were no questions about Treasury and Policy Board. The Sysco questions, the staff - I want to thank all of the staff for their time. This is a great process, I believe, with respect to accountability.
In particular I want to express my appreciation to members for the tone of the questioning. It was very inquisitive in nature. It was very much related to the concerns members have not just in their own areas, but province-wide. We refer to these as the debates on the estimates, but I usually think of a debate as having a different tone than that which was used in this process. I believe it's a very good process and one where the people are served extremely well with respect to the concept of accountability.
Now, I can keep talking, or I can sit down, whatever the committee thinks I should do. (Interruption) The Opposition House Leader tells me I should sit down.
I want to thank the members very much for this effort, Mr. Chairman. (Applause)
MR. CHAIRMAN: Shall Resolution E33 stand?
Resolution E33 stands.
Resolution E44 - Resolved, that the business plan of Sydney Environmental Resources Ltd./Sydney Steel Corporation be approved.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Shall Resolution E44 carry?
Resolution E44 is carried.
The time for the allotted debate on the estimates today has expired.
The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.
MR. PATRICK DUNN: Mr. Chairman, I move the committee do now rise, report considerable progress and beg leave to sit again on a future day.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The motion is carried.
[The committee rose at 9:59 a.m.]