'Off roading on the 347'

Road repair advocacy turns to social media

By Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    
July 1 2020

ASPEN – To get anywhere from the Garden of Eden you have to travel along what some residents are calling the “Highway from Hell,” also known as N.S. Rte 347. That’s the stretch of highway – also called the Sherbrooke Road – running from the TCH just east of New Glasgow to Highway 7 at Aspen.

How bad is it? Just ask Michael Jordan, a road construction engineer who lives in this paradisaically named community of about 140 people. “It’s not like people have a choice,” he says.

Perhaps, but since March, he and his father Trevor have managed a Facebook group to provide people in this part of the province with at least an outlet for their frustrations. “Off roading on the 347” now has nearly 300 members, all of whom are more than happy to post news of their latest adventures on what many road warriors believe is the worst stretch of provincial highway in the province.

Jordan certainly thinks so. He must use the dipping, weaving, crumbling, divot-strewn, pot-hole-cratered, 67-kilometre road to get to work.

“Why would a person invest $32,000 in a brand-new vehicle only to have it constantly in the shop for repairs?” he says. “You’re not even buying reliability with a new vehicle, because after you’ve put in two years on this road, the car’s in the same shape as an eight-year-old vehicle.”

St. Mary’s resident Scott Beaver agrees. “I travel the 347 twice a day, five days a week from Waternish to the Michelin Tire plant in Granton,” he says. “I have nightmares about this stretch of highway and it is the cause of undo expense. It is also a stretch of highway that has no cell coverage, so you can only hope a breakdown is not in that large no-coverage zone. I'm constantly bringing my poor Subaru to my mechanic for work.”

Jordan’s main complaint – other than the road’s perennially rotten condition – is the apparent nonchalance of provincial officials, which actually motivated him to launch his social media campaign in the first place. “We thought this might be the way to go,” he says. “People are afraid of it. Telephone calls and emails just don’t cut it anymore.”

He explains: “It just got to the point where we were getting nowhere talking to people at the Department of Transportation. They’d just say they’d get to it when they got to it, or that they were already working on the problem. They might come up with a truck and put down some coal patch and drive away. But the problems with that road are definitely more than skin deep.”

Lately, though, the road’s condition – or, possibly, the increasing public hue and cry over it – has garnered attention from one highly placed public official. When asked about the 347, Nova Scotia Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Lloyd Hines (MLA for Guysborough-Eastern Shore-Tracadie) confirmed, “We’re doing seven kilometres of it this year.”