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March 16, 2006
(Transportation and Works)

Transportation and Works minister clarifies winter maintenance program

Trevor Taylor, Minister of Transportation and Works, has responded to recent comments by Eddie Joyce, MHA for the District of Bay of Islands, regarding snow clearing.

"The current schedule of 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. equipment deployment on our highways has been in effect since 1982. Itís strange that Mr. Joyce didnít have a problem with it when he was part of the government but now, all of a sudden, has major concerns," observed Minister Taylor.

"Normal operating schedules are between 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. but, where circumstances warrant coverage outside normal hours, it is provided.

"In addition to our normal winter maintenance budget of approximately $45 million, we also spend an extra $2-3 million in overtime costs to provide coverage outside normal hours when necessary. In extreme circumstances, we also call upon private equipment operators to supplement our own fleet."

Minister Taylor points out the department continues to maintain 56 winter depots and has not made any reduction to the number of depots or the resources deployed to provide winter maintenance.

Minister Taylor noted that the current government is investing significantly in renewal of the heavy equipment fleet.

"This year, we spent about $7 million, including purchase of thirty new fully-equipped trucks and, next year, we will spend at least that much again and probably more," said Minister Taylor.

The minister also noted that the previous government did not invest adequately in snow clearing equipment and, as a result, it will now take several years of major annual investments to restore the equipment fleet to an acceptable level.

"For the severe winter conditions we experience in Newfoundland and Labrador, the roads are in good shape. Our equipment operators who venture onto the highways in all types of difficult weather conditions are to be complimented for the work they do. We all owe them a big thank-you," said Minister Taylor.

Media contact: David Salter, Communications, (709) 729-3015, 691-3577

2006 03 16                                                11:30 a.m.

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