Day 9 on the Trans-Canada, Charlottetown, PEI


Trans-Canada distance: 1,262 km

Actual distance driven:  2,302 km

THEN: When the federal government passed an Act, in 1949, to “encourage and assist the construction of a trans-Canada highway,” it proposed splitting the cost 50/50 with the provinces for the construction of a road that would be built to a uniformly high standard.

Quebec and all the eastern provinces were reluctant to agree, however, because they would have to spend money to improve existing roads they already considered good enough – with the exception of Prince Edward Island. PEI was pleased to sign right away on the dotted line. It wanted a bridge or a tunnel to connect it to the mainland, and it saw this co-operation as only beneficial toward that.

Of course, it also had by far the least amount of highway to construct: just 120 kilometres between the New Brunswick ferry at Borden and the Nova Scotia ferry at Wood Islands. Its relative costs were higher, though, since all gravel for the base had to be imported from Nova Scotia.

Robert Vessey, PEI Minister of Transportation and Works

Robert Vessey, PEI Minister of Transportation and Works

NOW: PEI’s transport minister runs his finger along a smooth line on the map. “This is the new route the highway will be taking,” says Robert Vessey. He doesn’t need to waggle his finger along the other line, which twists sharply on the paper and is the current position of the road.

At Churchill, it needs realignment, he explains. People don’t like change, especially here on the Island, and there have been numerous public meetings to determine the new route that the Trans-Canada Highway should take in this area. It has to be done, though – there’s a higher accident rate on this stretch than anywhere else on the highway, thanks to the relatively tight turns and steep grades.

“We’re trying to avoid expropriation (of private land),” says Vessey. “We’re dealing with all the landowners and so far, we don’t have all the deals done, but we’re close.  We’re negotiating–some are tougher than others, but so far, we haven’t expropriated any land.”

The existing road surface needed to be replaced anyway, thanks to the significantly increased heavy truck traffic from when it was first constructed in 1952. That would have cost the province $9 million. But if the Trans-Canada Highway is reconstructed, rather than just maintained, then the 1949 agreement still holds true and Ottawa will pay for half. The 6.1 kilometres of new road is estimated to cost $16 million, which means PEI need pay only half that, saving the province a million dollars and providing a safer highway, too.

Two different approaches to the same question

Two peas in a pod?

SOMETHING DIFFERENT:  This 1989 Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet is “ a good little car,” says owner Scott Dawson, but he’s bought a newer model, a 2001, so it’s not needed anymore. If you’re not sure with the photo, the VW is the car on the left…

“It’s not a car I’ll let my children drive,” he says. “They’ll get somewhere and then some little hiccup will happen with it and it won’t start and I’ll have to go get them and fix it. I’m always driving my kids to sports, so I said I might as well drive something fun. I didn’t buy it for the roof – I only drive it with the top down.”

Scott’s asking $4,750, which is about one-tenth the price of the 2012 Chevy Camaro I’m driving, but he says he’s open to offers. Interested? Give him a call in PEI at 902-853-7784.


Day 9 on the Trans-Canada, Charlottetown, PEI

  1. Mr. Richardson, I appreciate your time, however there area great many issues beyond that of expropriation of land in regards to this issue. And you should perhaps learn that politicians don’t always tell the truth. There have not been numerous meetings regarding this route; in fact there has only been one; 3 months after it was announced. And where the residents of the area and others held a “coup” in attempt to have actual answers given to their questions and not more regurgitated rhetoric.And seeing as a great many ravines need to be filled in to accomodate this “new” route, the numbers come in at well over the 16 million mark. Estimates to completion are about the 24 million mark; only 8 will be coming from the feds, so as Islanders, we are on the hook for the rest. If you have an opprotunity you should take a look at the route in reality, not on a poster board; it’s a dose of reality to say the least.

  2. There is another side to this highway story
    in PEI. This realignment, dubbed Plan B,
    has been pushed through without any public consultation on this particular
    version. It will go through almost 40 hectares
    of land, including old growth forest, of which there is precious little on PEI;
    the safety statistics have been misused to prop up this plan; it’s going to
    cost the province much more than $8 million (the purchase of property was not
    factored into Mr. Richardson’s calculations of simply upgrading the existing
    roadbed ), and Islanders know that very few people stand to benefit from it.

    While Mr. Richardson is on PEI, he should walk along parts of the surveyor’s cut, with local residents, and see the rest of the story.

    More details on Highway Plan B on the


  3. Dear Mr. Richardson, I am the feller with whom you had a brief chat after photographing the VW outside the dental office/red church where I work. I wish you a safe and happy adventure on your cross-Canada tour. Your sense of relief having survived the treacherous portion of our highway that you discussed with Minister Vessey was palpable in our short chat. Had I known at the time that you would write with such unalloyed praise about this unnecessary, expensive, destructive and unwanted project, I would have engaged you in a longer and more in-depth conversation. The only thing more twisted than this beautiful portion of PEI highway is the justification that this government is putting forward for its construction. There is so much wrong with the proposed realignment – from the flawed process prior to the decision, to the envronmental implications of its construction, the excessive cost and the “validation” of the need for any reconstruction based on some very flimsy safety statistics. Like the planned road itself, beneath the surface there are other, deeper and darker layers underlying the political decision to press ahead with this project despite unprecedented public protest. I hope you have time to make a quick u-turn before you head over the Confederation bridge and come back to hear some of the other sides to this sordid little story.

    • I did spend some time with residents, and came out and walked and drove the proposed cut. Take a look at my next blog entry, for Day 10, once It is published.

      • I look forward to reading your Day 10 blog. As one of many Islanders who have taken the time to thoroughly investigate the validity of Mr. Robert Vessey’s claims – this issue has emerged as representative of how corporate pressure trumps the needs of the electorate. Also, as a dedicated motorcyclist who has traveled the TCH coast to coast more than once, I also envy your trip! Good luck with your work – hope you can also help Islanders along the way.

  4. I hope, Mr. Richardson, you make an effort to set the record straight. Thousands of Islanders have stood up against Robert Vessey’s ruining this section of the TCH – including people who helped vote the current government into office – like me. The locally infamous “Plan B” has become a symbol of all that is going wrong in our beautiful province – and as it stands, your article simply perpetuates the problem.

  5. Hello, been trying to find out if you are the guy that inspected a 1999 Toyota Corolla for Ralph Carmody? Let me know asap, please as I cannot get it insured without the pink slip. Ralph cannot find it and I do not have it Thanks Tracey 886-2094

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