Steve Yeo said the planned highway re-alignment would instead cost the province (Prince Edward Island) $12 million and give the Churchill area a safer section of highway.
"It's a good project for the province to proceed with," he said.
Yeo was at the fisheries, transportation and rural development committee meeting Thursday (July 26) with the department's director of infrastructure Kim Horrelt for a presentation on the so-called Plan B through Churchill.
Unlike most legislative committee meetings that are sparsely attended, more than 20 people sat to listen to the presentation.
During the presentation, Yeo and Horrelt explained the reasons behind the decisions that led to the project.
Yeo told the MLAs the Transportation Department has been looking at making improvements to the highway in Churchill for about seven or eight years.
"It's been on the table for quite a while," he said.
In 2008 the department commissioned an independent study to find areas of safety concerns along the Trans Canada.
It was that study that identified Churchill, Tryon and Crapaud as being in need of improvements.
The provincial and federal governments are sharing the costs of the $16-million construction, with P.E.I. adding another $4 million to buy 23 properties in the area.
Of those properties, 10 have houses on them, eight of which are occupied.
That will put the provincial government's spending at $12 million for the project.
Yeo said the government spent $1.8 million last year on buying land and expects to spend about $2 million this year.
The province also looked at the possibility of taking a route that would move the CBC tower in the area, but that would cost $10 million, he said.
Yeo said the highway doesn't meet the national standards the Transportation Association of Canada sets out in its design manual, which the federal government requires for the re-alignment.
When Opposition Leader Olive Crane, who isn't on the committee but was there as an observing MLA, asked if the department could give the committee a copy of the manual, Yeo replied the government doesn't have extra copies and can't photocopy them.
The manuals are available to the public and cost $1,075.
Horrelt said the government has a duty of care to ensure the road is as safe as it can be.
Some people have suggested the province make changes to the existing highway, such as adding signs or rumble strips and reducing the speed limit, but Horrelt said those measures won't fix the problems.
"The minor fixes don't work," she said.
To illustrate the safety point, Horrelt told the committee there was an accident on the stretch of highway in question on Friday.
The RCMP confirmed there was a two-vehicle collision Friday around 3:30 p.m. near the Bonshaw Amusement Park with only minor injuries to those involved.
Although the RCMP haven't determined the cause, Const. Jeff MacKay said alcohol wasn't a factor.
During the meeting, Crane suggested the government get the RCMP to focus on enforcement because of the high number of drunk driving convictions in P.E.I.
Crane asked if the Transportation Department would recommend delaying the construction for one year and increase enforcement along the section of highway through Churchill to see if it leads to a reduction in accidents.
Horrelt said she agreed drinking and driving was a concern, but the department's mandate was to improve the road's design.
"The hills are to steep, the curves are too share and it has become a safety issue," she said.