The Trans-Labrador Highway (TLH) is a Canadian highway located in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is the primary public road in Labrador and one of the few maintained roads connecting towns in that province. Due to the harsh winters and sparse population in most of Labrador, most the road is a well-packed asphalt/gravel surface that is re-graded annually (usually in mid to late May), and there are no plans to fully pave it (as of 2014).
The original western/central portion of the TLH is designated as Route 500 and measures 549 km (341 mi) divided as follows:
- Quebec - Labrador boundary to Labrador City/Wabush (23 km, asphalt surface)
- Labrador City/Wabush to Churchill Falls (238 km, asphalt surface)
- Churchill Falls to Happy Valley-Goose Bay (288 km, mostly asphalt with 60 km gravel surface)
Heading Southeast is Route 510, the north portion of the TLH that has been designated Labrador Coastal Drive:
- Lake Melville/Hamilton Inlet/Happy Valley-Goose Bay, to connect Cartwright Junction (87 km south of Cartwright) (250 km, gravel surface).
The remaining portion of Labrador Coastal Drive runs 409 km, divided as follows (Route 530):
- Cartwright to Port Hope Simpson (179 km, gravel).
- Port Hope Simpson to Mary's Harbour (58 km, gravel surface).
- Mary's Harbour to Lodge Bay (12 km, gravel surface).
- Lodge Bay to Red Bay (74 km, gravel surface).
- Red Bay to Quebec - Labrador boundary via Blanc Sablon (86 km, asphalt surface).
The TLH runs through dense wilderness for most of its length with no roadside services between communities. Travelers attempting to drive the TLH in winter months should plan for unpredictable and extreme weather and road conditions.
Construction and development
Phase I, Upgrading Labrador West to Happy Valley-Goose Bay
The original TLH from Labrador West (Labrador City/Wabush) to Happy Valley-Goose Bay was completed in 1992. Some sections were poorly built or in need of upgrades due to increased traffic use, particularly the section between Churchill Falls and Happy Valley-Goose Bay. In summer 1999, $60 million (CAD) was allocated to upgrade the highway as part of the "Labrador Transportation Initiative".
The Phase I section of the TLH began undergoing paving operations in 2009; by October 2011, a stretch of approximately 140 km leading east from Labrador West had been paved, as well approximately 100 km heading west from Goose Bay towards Churchill Falls. The entire Phase I section of the TLH is expected to be paved by 2014.
In 1997 the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador committed to building an extension of the TLH, connecting Happy Valley-Goose Bay with an existing isolated road network serving coastal communities on the Strait of Belle Isle. The impetus for this project was the federal government's desire to cut costs and remove itself from subsidizing coastal ferry service to Labrador outports which was being provided by the federal Crown corporation Marine Atlantic.
These federal cuts were completed in 1997, under the moniker Labrador Transportation Initiative, when an agreement was signed which saw the federal government transfer ownership and operation of two ferry vessels, along with $340 million (CAD) for extending Labrador's road network. A key component to this plan was $150 million to upgrade coastal Labrador marine services, including a newer high-capacity ferry for the St. Barbe-Blanc Sablon service across the Strait of Belle Isle.
Phase II, Red Bay to Cartwright
Phase II of new construction, costing $130 million, began in 1999 and saw Route 510 extended 323 km over four years from its terminus in Red Bay northeast to the port of Cartwright. When this southern portion of the TLH was completed in 2002 the Labrador coastal ferry services were transferred in a controversial move from Lewisporte on the island of Newfoundland to Cartwright.
The southern TLH runs 409 km, divided as follows:
- Quebec - Labrador boundary (Blanc Sablon) to Red Bay, (86 km, asphalt surface)
- Red Bay to Lodge Bay, (74 km, gravel surface)
- Lodge Bay to Mary's Harbour, (12 km, gravel surface)
- Mary's Harbour to Port Hope Simpson, (58 km, gravel surface)
- Port Hope Simpson to Cartwright, (179 km, gravel surface), of which 87 km is designated as Route 530.
The Phase II section of the southern portion of the TLH between Red Bay and Mary's Harbour experiences extreme winter driving conditions: pictures of heavy snow-removal equipment battling snow drifts dozens of metres deep have become famous around the world. The poor winter driving conditions often result in this section of the TLH being impassable for weeks. Local residents feel the road should have been built through woodlands; the route in use required rock cuts that tend to fill with snow.
Phase III, Cartwright Junction to Happy Valley-Goose Bay
Phase III is a 250 km section of Route 510 built for $130 million south of Lake Melville/Hamilton Inlet to connect Cartwright Junction (87 km south of Cartwright) with Happy Valley-Goose Bay, completed sufficiently to open to traffic on 16 December 2009. During 2010, two permanent bridges, road surface work, signage and guardrails will be completed at a cost of $15 million.
Phase II north from Cartwright Junction will be Route 530, and a ferry service connects Cartwright with Happy Valley-Goose Bay, which was intended to be removed after the highway is completed, achieved in mid-December 2009. Neither the minister's statement nor releases from the ministry of transportation specify any immediate cessation.
Transportation Minister Tom Hedderson had made the announcement of the impending completion of the highway connection between Cartwright and Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Tuesday, December 8, 2009 in the legislature.
"We indicated that we'd do everything possible to get it done in this time period of 2009," Hedderson said, "and ... we are very, very close in a sense that the crew has indeed connected up both sides." Hedderson said some final work has to be done on that portion of the highway, but he said it would open to the public soon.
Route 530 and supplementary routes
Phase II involved completion of highway north to Cartwright from Red Bay, and was opened in 2002. Although the entire route was initially designated as Route 510, upon completion of Phase III, the northern 87 km from Cartwright Junction was designated as Route 530.
Phase II also included other branch routes:
- Route 513 to St. Lewis
- Route 514 to Charlottetown and Pinsent Arm
- "Tenders Called for More Paving on Phase I of Trans Labrador Highway". Transportation and Works. Retrieved 26 April 2011.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Trans-Labrador highway.|
- Map of the southern TLH
- Community portraits along the southern TLH
- Photos of snow pictures in southeastern Labrador