Nature PEI

Road projects stir passion from public

From The Guardian – Oct 25, 2011 by

Ryan Ross

Opposition is growing to a proposed plan that would see a highway built through Strathgartney Provincial Park.

Julie-Lynn Zahavich is one of the people against it and said it’s a huge natural area that shouldn’t be disturbed by the highway.

“I guess I’m just a naturalist at heart,” she said.

Zahavich wasn’t alone as hundreds of people moved through a Transportation Department information session Tuesday at the Dutch Inn in Cornwall.

The park itself is located in Churchill about 20 kilometres west of Charlottetown.

It was one of several sessions the province was hosting to get feedback about three proposed changes to the Trans-Canada Highway in Crapaud, Tryon and Churchill.

The province will make the final decision on which project it will submit to Transport Canada for approval with money coming from the Atlantic Gateway Initiative.

Each information session featured displays that showed the proposed highway changes, along with details of why those areas were chosen and the benefits of any changes.

The Crapaud portion would cost $16.8 million, the Tryon section is pegged at $9 million and the Churchill portion would cost $9.5 million.

And while the proposed realignments differ in their lengths, the final results will be similar with straighter roads that will eliminate dangerous curves in the highway.

But not everyone agrees with the plans, including Molly Stevens who opposed the Churchill project that would go through Strathgartney.

“It’s nothing that can’t be solved with driving slower,” she said.

Despite the attention focused on the Churchill portion, the session was also meant to give information about the other proposed changes.

Tony Glencross was one of the people who supported the changes to the Crapaud section and said moving traffic away from the town was a good idea.

“I think that’s genius,” he said.

Maps at the information session plotted out the locations of accidents that happened in the last five years, including 33 in the Churchill area, 31 in the Crapaud section and 13 in the Tryon area.

Don Calder agrees there is a safety issue in Churchill and would like to see the highway go through the provincial park.

“It’s dangerous,” he said.

Calder said he often visits a friend who lives in the area and has had a few close calls. For him, it comes down to a matter of safety.

“It’s not going to get any better on that highway,” he said.

Prior to Tuesday’s afternoon session, about 150 people gathered at Province House for a rally in opposition to the Churchill plan, including the presentation of a petition to the government.

Green Party Leader Sharon Labchuk told the crowd there were almost 2,000 signatures on the petition and it’s something she has never seen during her time as an activist in P.E.I.

“I have never seen a petition fill up this quickly on any issue,” she said.

Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Robert Vessey was at the rally to accept the petition and said the government is undertaking an open process of public consultation.

“We have nothing concrete yet. We want to hear from the public and that’s why we have our meetings,” he said.

The next information sessions are scheduled for Thursday at the Crapaud Hall from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m.

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