Day 10 on the Trans-Canada, Borden, PEI


Trans-Canada distance: 1,317 km

Actual distance driven:  2,531 km

Downtown Charlottetown

A car turns left from University Ave. onto Grafton Street.

THEN: The Trans-Canada Highway used to come right through the middle of town in Charlottetown, along Grafton Street and up University Avenue. This was common practice across the country in 1962, because merchants wanted the inevitable traffic from tourists.

In Montreal, for example, the Trans-Canada Highway was officially placed right on St. Catherine Street downtown. But the merchants also got the inevitable truck traffic that comes with hauling goods around the country, and there are now bypasses to redirect traffic around commercial centres.

The Charlottetown bypass did not begin construction until the early 1980s, but today it loops around the island’s capital city. Some 200 trucks use it on average each day, staying well clear of the centre of town.

NOW: At the risk of over-alliteration, Prince Edward Island is an impossibly pretty, postcard-perfect province, and the Trans-Canada Highway dips and winds its way directly through several communities on its way between the bridge and the ferry. This may be pleasant on the two-lane portions, but it’s not efficient – and it’s dangerous. More accidents occur along the 6.1 km stretch near New Haven than anywhere else, and so as I wrote in yesterday’s blog, the province is widening and straightening that portion of road. Thirty-five properties will no longer have their driveways opening directly onto the TCH.

Miller Choi and the Bonshaw Amusement Park

Miller Choi, beside his gokart track

But not everyone is happy about this. “It doesn’t make any sense,” says Miller Choi, who owns the Bonshaw amusement park. There’s a small go-kart track on the 10 acres of land, as well as a pool for bumper boats and a mini-golf course, and it fronts directly onto the Trans-Canada. When the new road goes through on the other side of the trees behind, the amusement park will be cut off completely by the forest and drivers won’t see that it exists.

This was the first go-kart track in PEI and has been there for 42 years, says Choi. He doesn’t understand why the road is being directed behind his property and not in front of it, where it would continue to remove the sharp curve at the top of his hill.

The new TCH

The existing highway is blue, the new route is red and green

“I bought this place (in 2005) for its exposure onto the highway,” he says. “In the summer, we get more than a hundred visitors a day, but we’ll lose that. It will all be terribly worse, but the government doesn’t care.”

Choi wants the government to compensate him for lost business, or buy his property at a fair current price, but he’s heard nothing from enquiries he’s made. And he’s not the only person who’s affected by the new routing.

In the way of the road

This 1862 house will be demolished for the new road

“I really don’t want to talk about it – everything’s in negotiations,” says the man who comes to the door of the white house on the other side of the hill. The house was built in 1862, and the new road will go right through its living room. He says he’s lived there for 47 years, but he doesn’t know where he’ll move to when his home is demolished for the road. As for protesting, he says he has no choice – when the government wants to do something, they just do it.

He does acknowledge, though, that the current stretch of road is dangerous. “There’s at least two, three, four times a year that people come knocking on my door and say they’ve put a car in the ditch,” he says.

Alex Calder is also losing part of his property’s lawn, but he’s circumspect about the situation.

“I can see the positives in it,” he says, pointing out how the new route will flatten the hill and remove two sharp S-curves. “Water drains down the road here and then freezes on the curve, where it’s in shadow, and cars, trucks hit the glare ice and that’s it for them. It’ll be a lot safer when it’s done, and that’s what’s important, isn’t it?”

On Peters Road, in PEI

Finding my way through PEI

SOMETHING INTERESTING: No, this isn’t just a beauty shot of the Camaro convertible (though it does look pretty good). It’s a photo that illustrates what happens when you rely on a GPS mapping program to find your way around.

If everything’s bigger in Texas, then everything is smaller on Prince Edward Island. That extends right down to its country lanes, including this one, Peters Road, which started out as a regular two-laner and then, well, petered down to this.

Earlier, I’d stopped in to visit the office of the Canadian Automobile Association in Charlottetown and the helpful staff had offered to give me directions and a TripTik to get to Green Gables country, but I turned them down because I’m a guy and guys don’t ask for directions. Should’ve listened… They say it’s fun to get lost and it can be, but I was worried for the wide tires on the rocks in the mud, not to mention the low-slung chassis.

All turned out OK, but next time I’m on Peters Road, it’ll be with a dirt bike.


Day 10 on the Trans-Canada, Borden, PEI

  1. THe road does not cause accidents, the drivers do. If you research the cause of accidents on this segment of highway they are caused by inattentiveness, speeding, and/or drugs/alcohol. If the government wants to take away the curves they should straighten them a bit and put 80km/hr signs up and speed cameras. We don’t want to pay back 20 million plus interest for a new road. The new road will have drivers travelling faster. Maybe there will be less accidents. There will be more fatal accidents. The government doesn’t care about public safety, but they want us to think they do. They are cutting back on seasonal employment, education, and health care to help with the cost of the highway and implementing HST. The new highway will require almost 200,000 truckloads of fill and fragment/destroy pristine habitat including old growth acadian forest and wetlands. I didnt have to mention the homes and businesses affected. They were the only focus of the article. Learn the facts. It’s easy to see the government is doing a great disservice with this road. Speak up!!

  2. Curves in a highway: what a terrible situation.
    The Churchill curves are not “sharp” curves, as Richardson twice describes, and as proponents repeat ad-nauseam. The roadway is already expanded, in the same ways as many highway hills are and the TC itslef is familiar across the country, to accomodate slower climbing traffic. The accidents that have occured along this stretch (more than any other segment?) can be more likely traced to driver error than road structure or conditions.
    Stand by the roadside for an hour – or a day, or an hour a day on several days of the year if you wish – and guesstimate how many passing drivers are actually respecting the signage and conditions.
    We don’t have the money for this debatably necessary project. The federal government is putting in $8 million as part of an Atlantic Gateway infrastructure promotion (yeah, this project will really help improve transport of international goods to Charlottetown) and the province is matching the funds… plus.
    There were two other projects proposed along with the Bonshaw-New Haven segment. The public was encouraged to believe their input on the projects would be important. Instead, it was a presentation of what the government had decided to do, without explanation that the apparently least-publicly-acceptable project was the one to be attacked first. One of the other projects would re-align a more acute curve at Tryon that snuggles up to an obtuse intersection with a south-shore route. The second of the other projects removes the TC from the midst of a small community. Both would impact nearby farmlands, but the benefits are evident.
    Bonshaw-New Haven? Not so much. Even more so since the original plan, pushing directly through a provincial park, has already been adjusted to a second-choice route that the author describes.
    As Richardson describes, there is support for the project. There is resignation to the provincial powers’ pushing the project. There is opposition to the project. Whichever viewpoint may be right, eventually, now is not the time to spend on a debatable project.
    If the money has to be spent, to get the $8m infusion from the feds, then spend it on the less controversial segments that were proposed as part of the original concepts.
    Bonshaw – New Haven can wait. It will cost a lot less to better regulate traffic on that section and help determine how much driver control is a part of the problem.

  3. Mr. Richardson, how do you know, “More accidents occur along the 6.1 km stretch than anywhere else”? To be fair, you couldn’t know. Even if you did ask for raw data, Robert Vessey (the Minister) won’t provide it to you. However, he will provide his self-interested department’s interpretation of the data.
    In fact, Islanders are being forced to default to Freedom of Information measures to get any original untarnished records. Why self-interested? Because a mis-interpretation of the facts gives Mr. Vessey access to over 8 million Federal tax-dollars. So, why should Islanders care if Upper-Canada is ripped off? Aside from ethics, Islanders will have to match (read borrow) another 8 million to match the Federal dollars. . . for a road we neither need nor want. The opposition to this project is a position held by professional economists, doctors, and professionals well versed in statistical analysis, and most importantly literally thousands of petition signing Islanders.

    In the absence of personal expertise, I also turned to my professional truck driver and police officer friends – professionals who have driven this section of the road thousands of times. I could not find one person who thought this section of the TCH caused accidents. However, they are concerned with enforcement. Really, even after you drove it once or twice, and knowing PEI’s usage (we’re not urban by any stretch) do you really think that 6.1 km stretch warrants this type of fix?