I am an American citizen who has had the privilege and pleasure of visiting PEI several times during the last two decades. Admittedly, my initial interest in the Island stems from reading Anne of Green Gables, and viewing the PBS television series. During my visits I have had the opportunity to drive the entire Trans-Canada Highway across the Island, touching upon the north, south, east, and west shores. My travels have taken me through the very area impacted by the proposed Plan B, and I have driven the TC Highway along this stretch. I must say I was most surprised to learn that this road as it exists presents such a problem and risk that plans have been made to re-route it. My recollection of it is that it was a most pleasant and scenic drive, not in the least fraught with danger, and my first reaction was, why?
Moreover, I have been both dismayed and discouraged by what I have been reading regarding Plan B. The environmental, economic, and human cost to re-direct this highway seems to be far greater than the benefit of straightening out two curves in the road. What is equally disturbing is the seemingly tepid response of the provincial government to the residents of the area affected by this plan. As one who has always greatly admired Canada, particularly PEI, and who has entertained ideas of potential emigration, I am disillusioned by a government that seems shallow and dismissive to some very real concerns.
Sandra Rigas, Wellsville, New Yorkhttp://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Canada/PEI/Compass/ID/2273716698/
It's passing strange, the provincial government can find millions to carve up P.E.I.'s iconic landscape by proceeding senselessly with Plan B, but come up with nothing in support of a vital intercity passenger bus service. In fact, Robert Vessey doesn't even plan to be involved in discussions with his provincial counterparts over it.
Things, it seems, are getting curiouser and curiouser under the Ghiz government.
Paul Myer, Charlottetown
I moved to the Island almost six years ago and although I feel as much a part of life here as anyone else, I recognize the stigma of being a 'come from away'. Nonetheless, as I am a contributing, taxpaying, voting citizen of P.E.I., please indulge me.
The so-called Plan B highway realignment is a topic I have followed with interest. My second career as a tour guide has afforded me the opportunity to travel the section of road near Bonshaw and Churchill several times over the last few years. Guiding tourists from the cruise ships to see the magnificent Confederation Bridge,Victoria-by-the-Sea and rolling hills, they never fail to comment on the picturesque scenery atop the aforementioned stretch of highway. They always notice the signs 'Stop Plan B' and inevitably the question comes up. 'What's Plan B?' Without entering into a political discussion or giving my opinion, I try to explain the furor. Recently, a structural engineer from Colorado, a passenger on my coach, made the following observation. "Changing this highway is a total waste of resources. A stretch like this one in any other locale would be considered a treasure. All the authorities will accomplish is create a straight thoroughfare for speeders and drunk drivers to go faster!"
Given the lack of acceptable bike lanes, understaffed ERs, water-testing cutbacks, nursing shortages, inadequate resources for drug and alcohol treatment etc., I feel I must add my voice to the growing dissent over this decision. I tried to take a measured, well-informed approach to forming my opinion over this plan; however, all those who believe that it is a ridiculous waste of time and money need to become more vocal and more active in their condemnation of this decision.
Let your MLA know how you feel. Write. Phone. Email. And that means every Islander, whether you were born here or not.
Pamela Dawes, Charlottetown
Jack MacAndrew takes aim at a government expropriating land from Islanders for a road nobody wants -- The Eastern Graphic onlinehttp://peicanada.com/view_here_jack_macandrew/columns_opinions/island_government_has_no_money_it_still_has_choices_albeit
At first, I was greatly relieved by government's decision to change its mind about rerouting the Trans-Canada Highway through Strathgartney Park. Over time, though, I've become increasingly concerned about the so-called Plan B option. I see no compelling reason why — through some tweaking of corners and hills — the present highway can't be made equally safe.
I don't think the folks who are making these decisions — the political leaders and civil servants – understand just how strongly the general public feels about this issue: the essential indecency of sending the bulldozers through the woodlands and streams of the lovely Bonshaw Hills.
Harry Baglole, Bonshaw
I have recently heard that the Ghiz government has bought a house that is in the path of the Plan B extension at or near the Tryon Corner. In fact, it has purchased several, however, it's my understanding that this particular house was a designated heritage property. Allow me to explain what that means.
As a homeowner of a Canadian registered heritage home, it is protected by law as part of P.E.I. and indeed Canada's history. The owner must apply for government authority to do any changes to the house in order that the historical integrity not be breached.
So here is my question: If the Ghiz government has purchased a heritage home in the path of Plan B and intend to tear it down, has it obtained permission from the heritage property department and, if so, how? If not, how can it be allowed to break Canada's heritage laws?
I'd like an answer to that question, wouldn't you?
F. Ben Rodgers, Ebenezer
This week, Transportation Minister Vessey announced that the expropriation process for 'hold-out' property owners along the Plan B highway route begins on Aug. 22. He implies nothing can stand in the way of his start date.
This is far from the truth. The government has a process, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), to review such massive 'undertakings' as Plan B. If the proposal would cost too much to the environment, it can be rejected.
Right now, the Department of the Environment is reviewing the proposal under the EIA. Part of the process is public consultation with a meeting Monday, Aug. 27, at the Dutch Inn at 7 p.m., which all are welcome to attend. It's one of the few chances to see the maps and ask questions.
The other public consultation part is that people are invited to make written questions and comments about the environmental aspects of the proposal; there are plenty of issues for Islanders to comment on. Comments can be mailed to the EIA Officer Jay Carr, at Department of Environment, PO Box 2000, Charlottetown, P.E.I. C1A 7N8, Attention: EIA Officer (or e-mail: email@example.com) by the first week of September.
The government must follow its own procedures, especially when so much of value is at stake here — the cost, the land, the rights of Islanders.
Ruth Lacey, Bonshaw
The controversy over 'Plan B' continues, thanks to the sustained opposition of concerned citizens.
Several alternatives have been proposed, yet Premier Ghiz and his government have shown no willingness to consider modified versions.
There has been no mention of the significance of this part of the Island. Settled in the early 1800s by one of the largest landowners, Robert Bruce Stewart, the Strathgartney property (now a national historic site) straddled both sides of the road from the family cemetery down to the West River.
By flying in the face of such widespread non-partisan opposition, the provincial Liberals have lost their credibility as defenders of the public good. In forging ahead with this project, they have ignored the will of a majority of the population. They do not speak for the people. The people have spoken now and will do so more directly at the next provincial election.
Anne (Stewart) Miller, Barbara (Stewart) Dubois, Mary Lea (Stewart) Gray, Victoria
With the threat of expropriation for the landowners who do not wish to sell their land for an unwanted highway, it seems the Ghiz government has sunk to a new low.
The landowners should demand that if their land is taken they should recieve the same level of payment that Minister Ron Mackinley got for 1/10 of an acre to expand the TransCanada highway in Cornwall. I stand to be corrected, but if my memory is correct he got over $11,000. So each acre of their land should be worth at least $110,000 plus inflation of at least three per cent per year since his deal was cut.
The precedence was set, then and there, and if government wants the land, it must pay.
It is high time people of this Island have a mechinasum to not only remove MLAs the likes of Valerie Doherty who won't stand up for her constituants, and a built-in safeguard to stop idiotic Plan B projects.
Paul Smitz, The Island Party
Plan B at Strathgartney is totally unnecessary considering the expense of tax dollars and the destruction of homes and farmland for that short distance. When the alignment is done, I would be surprised if more than two minutes of travel time is saved — perhaps only one minute.
We are told there are more accidents on this section than on other parts of the Trans-Canada Highway. One person was killed there in the last 10 years. I would like to know how many accidents happen in the Clyde River-New Haven section, as I know there have been several traffic fatalities in that area.
I was talking with a transport truck driver who said if they would cut 100 feet off both curves at Strathgartney and grade the road properly, there would be no problems with winter driving. There is another bad curve about one kilometre east of that area and this, too, could be improved by placing the fill from Strathgartney curves in this other area.
It is estimated that this work will cost $20 million to $24 million and it could be $30 million plus in cost over-runs. Is it worth spending this amount of money when improvements could be made with much less expenditure of tax dollars and destruction of property?
David Ling, North Winsloe
Over the past month I have been driving from Charlottetown to Victoria every day to appear in On Golden Pond at the Victoria Playhouse (closes this Sunday, get your tickets now!)
I’ve driven the road that is meant to be improved by the Plan B project countless times in my years working in Victoria, and still count it as one of my favourite drives. Like other great drives that I’ve taken in the past — on the New Zealand coast or through the Canadian Rockies — this stretch of road is shaped by, and draws attention to, the landscape that you are traversing.
Great roads not only take you places, they are great places in themselves. While this road is far less challenging than most of the world’s highly rated scenic drives, its gentle curves and changing vistas still offer a glimpse into the native character of the place, and as such, serve as an excellent gateway into our province for visitors.
While I’m sure that straightening our roads would offer improved efficiency (in terms of delivering cheap imports and extracting resources), I fear that much of the unique character of our Island will (literally) be buried beneath the asphalt and shale of these “improvements”.
Plan B and the Atlantic Gateway project ask us to view the Bonshaw Hills and the gently twisting road that runs through them as an impediment to safe and speedy travel from point A to B, but I can’t see it that way. There is inherent value in these hills and in this road, and if driving more slowly is the cost of protecting them, than it is a cost I am more than happy to pay.
After all, what is the point of improving the road if you risk destroying the place?
Josh Weale, Charlottetown
Since the highway realignment project in Churchill was announced in the fall of 2011 the government has been fielding many questions as to why the project is needed.
The government contends a realignment is needed in Churchill for safety purposes and because they can get a good deal on the work. Whether or not you agree with them, it is important that public safety is of primary concern.
However, there is a problem in the government’s safety argument – they have not proved their point. The government argues the collisions along that stretch of highway have claimed lives and injured others; perhaps it has, but what it is important to note is that any Islander with a compass can surely find another hazardous road — unfortunately — within the province.
What is odd about this process is the stonewalling from the government when they have been asked to provide the public with some facts to back up their safety argument. Indeed, as recently as July 26 at a transportation committee meeting we saw this type of behavior from the government.
Opposition Leader Olive Crane asked the Department of Transportation to provide statistics on the Churchill highway to determine whether the collisions which resulted in serious injury and death were the result of alcohol or driving error, rather than a poor highway. Instead of getting an answer, she was told to make a freedom of information request – a process that takes months.
At the same meeting, Crane asked for a copy of the Transportation Association of Canada’s design manual (the manual which allegedly deems the Churchill highway unsafe) and was told she could not look at the manual because the government did not have any more copies and they could not photocopy it. Incredibly, the manual costs $1,075. My question is this: if the highway in Churchill is really designed that poorly, why is the government failing to provide the public with reputable statistics to back up the claim? Why is the government stonewalling those looking for the truth?
Robert Arsenault, Sherwood