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April 11, 2006
(Transportation and Works)

Investing in Infrastructure: Government to invest $50 million in Labrador infrastructure

Trevor Taylor, Minister of Transportation and Works, discussed the significance of the recent Labrador transportation infrastructure budget investments, totaling approximately $50 million, today at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

"Strategic investment in transportation infrastructure grows economies, especially in rural Newfoundland and Labrador," said Minister Taylor. "Government�s Blueprint of 2003 stated that the biggest hindrance to economic development throughout the province, particularly Labrador, is our dependence on ineffective and costly forms of transportation. Budget 2006 is making significant strides to address these concerns with an eye towards strengthening our economy."

Among the highlights, the minister confirmed that government has invested $759,000 to extend the Straits Ferry Service, between Blanc Sablon and St. Barbe, by one month.

To enable ferry users to utilize the service during Easter break, the schedule will start Thursday, April 13, more than two weeks ahead of the usual schedule. The service will also be extended until January 16, pending ice conditions. As a result, the schedule is now longer than it has ever been.

The department consulted with the Minister�s Advisory Committee on Labrador Transportation before finalizing the start and end dates for this season. "Ferry users in the area have been asking for an extension to the Apollo service for years," said Minister Taylor. "Since ice conditions have improved in recent years, and government is now in a financial position to extend the service, we are pleased to do so."

Government has also budgeted $2.8 million in Labrador for vessel refits as well as almost $1 million for improvements to wharfs and terminals.

Minister Taylor also discussed government�s investment of $1.2 million to address the concern of severe winter conditions in the area between Red Bay and Lodge Bay. A transportation depot is being constructed at Chateau Pond that is expected to be completed this fall. Government will also invest an additional $700,000 to increase snow-clearing efforts in this area.

The depot will enable the department to keep appropriate snow-clearing equipment in the area. The depot is strategically placed to allow snow-clearing crews to work from the centre of the highway outward, therefore allowing more efficient snow removal on this section of the Trans-Labrador Highway. The department will also be considering other options to address some of the troublesome rock cuts on this section of road.

"Government anticipates that this initiative at Chateau Pond will keep the road open longer, making it more convenient for travelers," said Minister Taylor.

These major transportation infrastructure initiatives follow the recent budget commitments for Labrador that include a $41.7 million commitment for continuation of the Trans-Labrador Highway.

Government will invest $26.7 million to further construct Phase III of the Trans-Labrador Highway - including 50 kilometres between Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Cartwright - and another $15 million, subject to 50-50 federal-provincial cost-sharing, to start application of a sealed surface on Phase I of the Trans-Labrador Highway between Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Wabush. The total estimated cost to finish Phase III and complete the sealed surface of Phase I is approximately $172 million. Approximately $2.7 million will be invested throughout Labrador under the Provincial Roads Improvement Program. Federal funding of $1.4 million will be allocated for the purchase of equipment for Labrador airstrips.

While in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, the minister is holding the first meeting of the Minister�s Advisory Committee on Labrador Transportation. The nine-member committee was established a little over a month ago to make recommendations on how best to address future Labrador transportation needs. The committee has reviewed three reports on a Southern Labrador Regional Airport, marine base freight rates and passenger fares, as well as marine services and will present their opinions to the minister. These studies will eventually feed into a greater Labrador Transportation Strategy. Budget 2006 includes an investment of $325,000 to assist with the development of this strategy.

Paul Shelley, Minister responsible for Labrador Affairs, was also in Happy Valley-Goose Bay for the minister�s advisory committee meeting and says the recent investment in Labrador infrastructure re-confirms government�s blueprint commitment.

"This important strategic investment will result in a better and more efficient transportation network for the people of Labrador," said Minister Shelley. "We are making priority investments and I looking forward to getting input from the transportation committee."

Government will invest $300 million in infrastructure this year, $171 million of which is earmarked for transportation infrastructure. This is the first installment of a six-year $2 billion strategy for infrastructure improvements that will generate more than 4,500 full-time equivalent jobs.

Media contact:
David Salter, Transportation and Works, (709) 729-3015, 691-3577.
Alex Marland, Labrador Affairs, (709) 729-4062, 690-6047

2006 04 11                                12:35 p. m.

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